Plot Stew

I honestly don’t know how useful it is for me to talk about writing process, since it tends to be rather unique to the writer. But, people seem to like hearing about the different ways we go about doing things. So, I’m going to speak a bit about my plot process.

I’m a plotter, always have been. I come at stories from the big picture side of things. Many writers start with character or a special scene and build up from there. I begin at the other end and work from big down to small. There’s nothing inherently better in this, it’s just one way among many to accomplish the same goal. The big picture elements are what usually spark my interest in a story, i.e. a global warming disaster, alien invasion, or in the case of Deadworld, discovering that the afterlife isn’t exactly what we thought. I’m also a very visual plotter. I think in “movies” as it were, playing out elements in my head on the big screen as though I were watching a movie.

When I get an element I think would make for great story, I replay it in my head over and over again, almost fixating on it, I suppose. I play around with “what ifs” putting in things I think might play well with the central thought. With Deadworld, I had the whole afterlife notion which I thought was very cool, and the fact I wanted a vampire in my story. How could I put these together in a unique way and make an intriguing story? I spent a month just fiddling with ideas, playing various movie clips in my head over and over, every day, and jotting down occasional notes when something particularly cool came to mind. Gradually pieces began to fall in to place, building upon each other, until I had a general, overall plot for the story in my head. I had a beginning, middle, and end. At this point, I’m ready to really get things down on paper.

Because I’m visually oriented, I put these elements on paper, a single sheet, with the opening on the first line and the ending on the last. Then it’s more endless toying around with movie scenes until various elements begin to fit in the various places inbetween. Eventually, I have a full sheet with all of the major pieces of my story in place. It’s my outline, pretty much chapter by chapter of the whole story. So, when I begin to actually write, I know, for the most part, everything that’s going to happen from start to finish.

This method doesn’t work for a lot of writers. Getting it all down at the start ruins the suspense of the story and dispels the desire to write it. It has the opposite effect on me. Once I see the whole thing, put down in its framework form, I am inspired to write it, to see the skeleton of a story gain flesh and come to life. Seeing what’s coming gives me goals. I can’t wait to get to certain parts of the story because I know it’s going to be so fun to write them. For Deadworld 3, I’ve been toying with it for almost three months now (the luxury of a year-long deadline). All of the pieces aren’t in place yet, but I’ve got a lot of the major chunks. It’ll get there soon, and then I’ll have my outline and be ready to begin. I’m getting itchy fingers, because I can’t wait to write some of these things I’ve figured out.

Useful info? Not so much, I suppose, but I hope it’s been at least mildly interesting. What about you? What interesting/unusual ways do you writers go about creating your stories. I always like to hear about such things.

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One response to “Plot Stew

  1. I totally get what you’re talking about when you explain how you see your book like a movie in your head. I do the exact same thing. I watch the scenes play out and then will say ‘no that’s not quite right’ and watch it with some changes until it all feels right. By the time I write the scene I’ve seen it so many times that it basically comes out in words already edited.
    But, unlike you, I start at the beginning and watch it develop as it goes. I’ll usually have different scenes played through and developed in advance, but it all starts at the original opening scene with that main character. If I’m hooked by that idea, then I have to write because I want to find out more. As I write I let my mind drift ahead and begin viewing the next scenes, and so it goes.
    Really looking forward to your book coming out! Thanks for sharing about some of your writing processes, it’s always fun to hear about what works for other writers.