We have watched movies and TV show and read books since we were small. Our heads are full of plot ideas. When we go to write our own stories, it’s natural to pick the plot line that we’ve seen before. They can even be our favorite ideas. But don’t go there. Take a moment to think about your characters next move. Is that truly fesh? I just went back over my plot line for my newest book and realized that my opening scene has been done about a kazillion times. Yes, it’s exciting, yes, it would draw the read in–just like it has in all those other novels that started the same way. But is that what I want? No. I want something fresh and as nearly new as I can make it. The scene had to go. I hit the delelte key.
Painful? Not nearly as much as it would have been if I’d written the whole scene out in great detai, taken it to my writing group for their approval, rewritten it a couple of times, fallen in love with all the nuances of my clever sentences. What I cut was two sentences. Just the outline that I was making of what I forsaw my book to be.
That’s why I’m arguing for writing out an outline of your book before you start. I’ve written books the other way–a vague idea of where I wanted to go, a character who I loved, and then I turned my pen loose. Trouble was, I kept getting lost in my novel. I’d come to deadends or plot ideas would rise up in the middle that needed to be planted in the front of the book. The rewrite was painful and complicated.
This time I’m doing a detailed plot line. Some of you might want to use 3 x 5 notecards. I did it on a table in my computer. Each column was give then title: POV (point of view), Setting, Goal, Disaster, and Growth.
You may chose to tell you story from one point of view. That’s fine. Then you can eliminate the first column. Setting column is a way to make sure you’re not putting all of your action in one place–the kitchen, or the barn, or a car. You can study these and see if there is some place more interesting to place the action that you want to take place.
Goal is what the character hopes will happen in this scene. This is a way to make the scene character driven and not just character reacting.
Disaster is how you want the plot to thicken. The character goal may be to get a raise from her boss. The disaster would be he says yes, but only if she’ll work the late shift.
Character growth, makes sure that your characters are growing throughout the action of the story. From selfish to giving, from bitter to hopeful, from depressed to happy.
Now that I have these colums filled out, I think about them and work them over and change them. It’s so much easier than working with a 90,000 word novel.
I highly recommend this. Next, I’ll tell you about writing a treatment.