Saturday, 28 June 2014

Writing a Book - Creating a Plot


How did I create my plot? With a great deal of patience. In my novels, rightly or wrongly, I didn't plot out the entire novel. Instead I had a general idea of what might happen at points in the tale. In a sense these ideas were like islands, but on the main I didn't know how the islands were connected. The different characters were akin to new islands in my imagination and that helps to understand the potential complexity of some of the future plots.

The first scene, or island, I had was of two characters traversing an underground cavern, searching for something, but at this early stage I didn't know what it was they were looking for. It was, however, an incredibly vivid scene in my mind. The cavern was dark and warped, rock columns cast dancing shadows in the flickering torchlight. The atmosphere was thick and I could feel the presence of souls lingering in characters' peripheral vision. There was an imminent sense of danger and the souls were gibbering and shrieking, hurling abuse at the shadows. I then asked myself where the characters were going and what was their aim. That became another island that might have been three chapters ahead or even another novel (my books were a trilogy).

As a writer I wanted to know more about my initial scene and it was that desire to know more that helped me to create a plot. Who were the people in the cavern? Why were they there and importantly for the reader, what was the threat? From one scene, you have the potential for a story. This could be the start of a tale, but as someone pointed out recently -- any chapter has a beginning, even the first chapter of a book. This particular scene actually became the last chapter of my first book.

This method of plot creation is slow and very difficult to write, but has a marvellous reward. Occasionally I became stuck (writer's block). I really didn't know where tale was going, other than a scene as an island some distance ahead. This is where \I needed patience and sometimes months passed before inspiration struck. This is not something to be rushed. If you find yourself writing just to continue the tale then it may become flat and uninteresting. When inspiration came to me it was amazing, like turning the page of someone else's book.

In a later book the plot creation was marginally different. It was a prequel and some of the plot had already been formed in my earlier works. In this situation I had a skeleton of a plot and I actually knew the ending for this book. What I didn't know much about were the characters and how their tale involved. This time the plot evolution was more about them.

Unsurprisingly characters will alter the plot. They also need to go where they will. Their role should never be forced, otherwise the reader will not believe the tale. Sometimes a character is required of a certain nature to make the plot interesting. In Lord of the Rings, Pippin often gets into mischief because he is inquisitive. Pippin, on occasions, drives the plot. he is the unpredictable element that forces events to transpire that may not otherwise happen. He is the wild card that makes the plot snake rather than progress in a linear fashion.
It is well worth creating characters early and even perhaps before starting your tale. Creating characters early will help you to develop a plot. Knowing that a character is cold and cruel will clearly influence the tale.

You need to keep surprising your reader and external influences can also do that. A new enemy, an event (earthquake, ship wreck etc) can all keep the plot evolving and may actually lead you somewhere that you didn't envisage. Be careful though not to get too sidetracked. Readers want to follow a main plot and if you meander too much they will lose interest. Choose external events/influences that are part of a deeper tale. That might be something that you want to happen much later in the book and that you want to drop hints about.

I would also suggest thinking about what interests you. This may be about another story, or something that happened in life. This needs to be something that inspires you. For me it was telling stories as a child and being scared. I wanted to create a world that recaptured that early childhood fear of superstition. That had to be woven into may tale and I had to decide how I would do that. This superstition was certainly part of my plot creation.

Earlier, writing a book-How to Start, I suggested writing short stories. These are your islands. Are they part of one tale or are they stand-alone? If they could be part of a bigger tale then the question is -- how are you going to join the islands together? Ask questions that you want to resolve about your short story and they become part of the plot.

Finally, remember that you need a beginning, a middle and an end. The plot needs to end leaving the reader satisfied.

Tops for Writing a Book - How to Self Publish
Should You Pay for a Review -- yes or no?
Making Your Writing Interesting
My top tips
Choosing a genre
How to Start writing a Book?
Creating a Plot for Your Book




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