Monday, 17 March 2014

Noveling 101: #3 Connecting Plot Points

The third post of Noveling 101!

Before I begin this post, I really must refer you to this lovely article on Conjugal Felicity. I am not responsible for asphyxiation due to laughter or horror.

Hopefully, you haven't gone off wandering into the delights of Conjugal Felicity and are still paying attention here. So. Connecting plot points is one of my worst nightmares. I absolutely, absolutely hate it, but sadly, the linkage is where I tend to stumble most during the actual writing process. Hence the need to plan them out.

Essentially, what I do is write down the points I have in roughly chronological order first, like this:

  1. The crown prince journeys into the neighboring country.
  2. He battles a dragon.
  3. He kills the Emperor Evulz.
Take a look at our first point: The crown prince journeys into the neighboring country. This is not terribly helpful or interesting, so establish why this happens. If your first point was a motivation (e.g. the prince wants revenge for his father*), then feel free to skip ahead. If it isn't, figure out why the character goes to all this hassle. Often, this would be at least related to the last point on your timeline. So now we have:
  1. The prince wants revenge for his father, who was killed by Emperor Evulz of Neighboring Country.
  2. The prince journeys into Neighboring Country.
  3. He battles a dragon.
Now, here comes the real trick: For every pair of points, put a 'so' between them. Demonstration: The prince journeys into Neighboring Country, so he battles a dragon. The logic doesn't quite work, does it? I find the following formulas quite useful when working out the chinks in the logic:

1. (Plot Point 1) --> immediate consequence 1

2a. immediate consequence 1 --> immediate consequence 2
OR
2b. immediate consequence 1 + background info --> immediate consequence 2

3. immediate consequence 2 --> (Plot Point 2)

How many immediate consequences are needed in between depend on the specific points. Personally, I like to cover the plot point below with my hand and focus on the first one, so that I won't feel particularly guided to it.

1. The prince journeys into Neighboring Country + he doesn't have a visa issued by Emperor Evulz.
2. The Customs Dragons attempt to prosecute the prince.
3. The prince battles the Customs Dragons to avoid being captured.

Simply repeat this process for plot points 2&3, 3&4, and so on until you reach the end of your list. The main issue here is not how, but why something happened. What happened to the demo plotline:

  1. The prince wants revenge for his father, who was killed by Emperor Evulz of Neighboring Country.
  2. The prince journeys into Neighboring Country + he doesn't have a visa issued by Emperor Evulz.
  3. The Customs Dragons attempt to prosecute the prince.
  4. The prince battles the Customs Dragons to avoid being captured and wins + he still wants revenge.
  5. The prince proceeds further into Neighboring Country + he still wants revenge
  6. The prince confronts Emperor Evulz and kills him.
This is a relatively simple plotline, but the basic framework is the same even for massively complicated stories. Just take care to leave out subplots, and if there are two or more intersecting plotlines, separate them into different outlines. 

If the logic flow doesn't work the first time, try imagining other possibilities at each stage. It's all just experimenting until you find the exact right path that your story will take. In the end, it's not unlikely that your plot points will end up tweaked or even completely changed — so long as it's logical as well as suspenseful, it's fine. 

Chances are the plotline will be renovated in the editing process anyways. The main point of this post is to make sure you don't get stuck in the writing process when moving from one plot point to another.


*Ten points to anyone who figures out why this point sucks.


P.S.: Hold on to your outlines and timelines. They might be helpful when you start preparing query letters and synopses.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really helpful post, Starlight! Thanks!

    By the way, I've nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award - details are here: http://fairyskeletons.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-much-belated-liebster-award.html

    ReplyDelete

IMPORTANT: Please use Name/URL instead of Wordpress/OpenID to comment, otherwise Blogger hobbits will eat your words. So sorry about this. Thanks!

I respond to all comments and would love to check out your blog if you leave a link :D Unless it's spam. Then I'll delete the comment and put you on the takeout blacklist, what a shame!