How do YOU plot?
Posted by Frances Gow
I participated in a workshop last weekend, entitled ‘Plot – what plot?’ during which the facilitator, Anne Patrick, talked us through different plot structures from the classic – beginning, middle, end, through the 5 tier plot (now taught at GCSE) to an 8 tier story arc (Nigel Watts). We did some interesting exercises, but it all seemed very formulaic to me and it got me wondering what methods other writers use to plot their stories and novels. So here are few that I uncovered.
Stephen King: How to write in the Observer (01.10.00)
“The basics: forget plot, but remember the importance of ‘situation’. I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible.” Read more..
Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award shortlist nominee, on plotting short stories. A guest blog on ‘The Other Side of the Story’ with Janice Hardy.
The Shamsie Method (Kamila Shamsie, from Mslexia issue 45)
“Don’t do plotting beforehand; starting is very intuitive. ‘Here’s an idea, here’s a voice in my head – let’s see where it goes.’ For 20 or 30 pages, just bounce off in whatever direction.”
Neil Gaiman on the ‘loose approach to plotting’ – mikeshea.net
The Thomas Method (Scarlett Thomas, from Mslexia issue 36)
“Plan everything. Plotting is like planning the perfect bank robbery. You need to take care of all possible contingencies so you don’t get caught out.”
Other weird and wonderful ways of plotting:
The NaNoWriMo Way
I once read (a long time ago and I don’t know if this is true or not), that David Bowie used to write song lyrics by cutting out words and phrases from newspapers and throwing them into the air, then arranging them in whatever order they randomly landed *!?*.
Interestingly, I recently attended a workshop on writing drama, facilitated by Donna Franceschild (creator and writer of ‘Takin’ over the Asylum – BBC TV 1994 – great viewing if you haven’t seen it before…). We all had to write down 3 unconnected pieces of dialogue and throw them into the centre of the table. We then mixed them up and picked 3 each at random, then paired up. Each pair then created and acted out a scene using their 6 lines of random dialogue, trying to create a background story. Fascinating stuff (acting skills notwithstanding) and it really highlighted the power of subtext.
And finally, in How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, you can explore “200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published.”
Disclaimer: The views and methods described in the links above are not necessarily those shared by the author of this blog; use with extreme caution and don’t blame me if it all goes horribly wrong. Plot, what plot?