I DID mention I'm NOT a plotter, right?
Just to be clear.
But last year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I took author Ron Benrey's calls on plotting and learned how to 'sketch' a plot. I don't think he MEANT for me to take it as a 'sketch', but the whole idea of die-hard plotting hurt my brain, so I adapted this plot-structure for my own 'evil-panster' purposes :-)
So...in a very small way, I started to plot.
I know - every panster cell in me started frantically waving- but it made sense to my disorganized brain. A sketch? Sure - like an outline.
The cool part, is it isn't set in stone. It's a general outline for the story, but as the plot and characters grow, mature, or change, the 'outline' can change too. In his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction (which was written with me in mind), Ron Benrey points out 13 Plot Elements to create a gripping story. Along with having memorable characters, conflict, and the ability to weave a good yarn, a action-filled story usually contains these 13 elements.
I’m going to take the 13 elements and use C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as an example.
1. Set up the plot – who, what, where
WWII London with the four Pevensie children. Their father is at war and their mother must send them to stay with a reclusive professor in the country.
2. Hero’s motivation – what does your protagonist want?
Initially, the motivation is to get their minds off of their separation from their mother and the fact that their father is in the war
3. Begin the hero’s quest -
4. Change the hero’s direction
The children realize they can’t go back home without Edmond, who is now under the influence of the White Witch.
5. Challenge the hero with problems
The children are chased by wolves, Edmond is threatened to be turned to stone; they are constantly on the run from the witch, and in search of Aslan. Not only this, but their brother is a traitor and is in the clutches of the White Witch.
The children realize that they are kings and queens of Narnia when Aslan ‘knights’ them after rescuing Edmond. They must make a decision now, whether to stay and defend Narnia, or go home.
7. Give the hero tougher problems
Peter learns that Aslan will not be around to help fight in the battle against the witch. He is uncertain whether he can defeat the witch or not, and doubts his abilities to lead the Narnians.
9. Let the hero suffer maximum angst
Easy – Aslan’s death. All seems lost for Narnia when the White Witch slays Aslan in Edmond’s place.
10. Change the hero’s direction
11. Give the hero new hope
Aslan appears, alive from the dead, and the tide of the battle changes.
12. Achieve a win/lose conclusion
Aslan kills the White Witch and those who were wounded are healed by Lucy’s magic vile.
13. Tie up the loose ends
Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy are crowned kings and queens of Narnia. They rule Narnia for many years, but then, while hunting the mysterious White Stag, they find their way back through the wardrobe. They return to their children’s ages and cannot get back to Narnia through the wardrobe…but, the professor gives us a hint at a sequel by telling the children they will not get back to Narnia again through THAT door.
The last few choices can be moved around a bit - for example, the moment of maximum angst could be during the battle when Edmond's stabbed and Peter is almost killed by the White Witch - but I think Aslan's death is much clearer as the point of maximum angst.
Hope this little outline helps. It really opened my eyes to the basic outline of a story.
Now, we all develop stories in different ways. Some of us may use this plotting strategy and a thumbnail sketch instead of a step-by-step approach. For me, I use half/half. I muse a while and then sketch/write…and muse a bit more, and sketch/write some more. Before I begin, I usually know my ending so the plotting structure is a loose guide through the jungles of my story.
I also have a tendency to write scenes out of order. For example, I have the last chapter of my wip written, plus a few chapters before it, but I'm only officially 'on' chapter 6. I'm learning that a bit of a sketch helps maintain my focus, and in all honesty, my sketches look a whole lot like the one above - simple 1-3 word sentences for each 'point'.
There you have it.
If you plot, do you have a structure? technique?
If you don't plot, what elements (if any) do you use to keep yourself on track?