Tag Archives: writing

Plot: Getting Organized

8 Sep

It was a dark and stormy night. The street lamps went dark. A vampire bit into an unsuspecting victim’s neck. He caused havoc around town until dawn broke. Somewhere in there he falls in love with his victim, but she loathes him. To this, he gets infuriated and runs away. And of course, then she realizes her tragic error – she does love him despite his appetite for humans – but he’s already gone. The end.

Ok, that’s not really awe-inspiring or long enough to be considered anything other than a rant, but it’s a start. Developing your plot and organizing your thoughts into paragraphs and chapters can become a daunting task without some sort of outline. Writing an entire story from start to finish without preparing something to help guide you on your way (my experience during NANOWRIMO 2006) may seem at first the “natural” way to let thoughts flow, or an “organic” way to build a story from off the top of your brain, but it can also be daunting. Isn’t it said that “preparedness is next to godliness”? Well, I don’t know about that whole godly aspect, but I do know that preparing – outlining, creating story boards, using note cards, having visual stimuli – can help immensely when you’re in the thick of writing.

For “Alternate Ending”, I plastered a 2’ x 1’ poster board to my wall and stuck character sketches, plot lines, chapter ideas, and pictures of locations all across it to give me a visual eye-sore of a reminder that this project had direction. Today, there are color schemes and dedicated post it notes for certain characters. Though the plot has changed several times since I made the board, it helps me visualize where I’m going with the story when I run off on tangents or avoid writing for a few weeks.

Two great examples of how to get organized with your plot are:

Storybook: a free online software for Windows & Linux users that can function in various languages. Their tagline breaks it down further: “Open Source Novel Writing Software for Novelists, Authors and Creative Writers.” There are several different views that seem very useful in the program:

1)      organize and store your plot lines, character sketches and scenes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)      gel all these pieces together to view your final picture in chronological order

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s really amazing…and FREE!

Unfortunately, for Mac users like myself, there doesn’t seem to be a solution, but if/when I find one, I will post it.

 

Another great way to approach your novel or short story is to think of it as a movie playing out in your mind…then on paper. In the same vein as the Storybook program and my homemade story board, you can approach your plot using the story board templates used by film makers. The great templates below are from a fellow WordPress blogger, HabitualFilms, and they’ve been posted to be printed and worked on as you wish. Draw in your characters, scenes, even conversations if you wish. Or, use the boards to organize your thoughts with sticky notes and highlighters. Either way, it’s a useful tool if you want a non-computer experience to plan out your story line.

 

Overall, have fun with it. The plot of your story is a living, breathing part of your creative process and organizing those thoughts should not take away from that process. Use the tools you can find to tweak, grow and elaborate on your plot and remember that just because it’s on a story board doesn’t mean it can’t change. Keep your plot fresh and intriguing. Organizing the essential pieces of your story on a storyboard, notebook or digital space can help free your mind to explore plot lines and twists you may have otherwise not approached. Go, organize and explore…

Happy Writing!

 

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Location, location, location…

1 Sep

Sometimes a story, poem, rant can take shape without a single character in mind and you just start writing about a place or a time that inspires your imagination. Yesterday, in a bit of a lull, I had this sudden urge to write and the only thing that took shape was a setting: Irish hilly countryside. No characters, just a long description filled with my memories and my imagination of what this bit of place looked, felt, sounded, even smelled like.

Using as many of your 5 senses as possible…and the 6th, too,  if you’ve got it handy…try and imagine a single place. No people. Just take in every ounce of information you can from the place you are or that you are imagining. Even if you’re in a crowded subway car or coffee shop, sit still and imagine what it would be like if you were a fly on the wall really taking in every element of the space you inhabit. Let the place be its own character. Give it personality or take it from the elements you observe.

Here are some exercises I think are useful:

1) Dig up an old picture of a place you have been. A scene from the canals in Amsterdam, a lake in rural Minnesota where you & your family used to go, a mountain range, even a shot of your backyard. What are those places like when there is no one around? Does the grass sigh with relief when it finally rains, giving off that earthly smell? Do the empty streets in the summer sizzle under the sun? What animals appear when no people are present and take shape to the landscape?

2) Think of one location in particular and use your five senses to describe it during all four seasons: a view of it in summer, fall, winter and spring. Then, take a look at it during those weeks in the year that cradle two seasons. Are the leaves teetering on the verge of falling, but they wait an extra week to deny winter is really coming? Do the cacti soak up as much water as they can from the last rain of the year, bracing for the 10 months of drought to come?

3) Describe a place that does not exist…to your knowledge. If writing fantasy or sci fi interests you, write about a mythical or made up place. Are there plants? What does it smell like? Do animals inhibit the area? Is the air thick with humidity or thin/non existent because of the atmosphere? Take it to the next level and try not to pull from the places you’ve seen/read about in sci fi or fantasy shows/books. Create your own, unique mythical setting.

Perhaps with the setting in front of you and tackled in depth, this exercise can lead to the development of characters for your novel/short story. Once you have a clear vision of the place they inhabit (permanently or temporarily) in your story, you can build your characters’ personalities, expressions, vernacular, etc.

Here’s one of my own pictures in case you need some inspiration:

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