Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WIP Wednesday - Let the Plot Points Flow!

Okay, I know you've heard this from me before...but I think I really did find a way of outlining that I like! I always knew I was a visual person, but I didn't realize just how strong that trait was until recently. I'm sure many of you partook of the awesomeness that was WriteOnCon. I loved each and every minute of it! And I took away a ton of useful information and tips to use in my writing.

The one bit of awesome that inspired my newfound love of outlining was the post on revising by associate editor Kendra Levin. In that post, she had a little flow chart depicting a format for creating an effective plot. (READ HER POST AND SEE THE CHART HERE)

Now, I'd heard this information before, seen it in written form (beginning, two turning points, climax, ending, etc) - and I'd tried to use this in my rough outlining. But for some reason, just having it written down did nothing for me. But plugging my plot points into this chart.....holy moly, let the writing flow! The light bulb went on, the muse put on her party hat and started shaking her booty, I was EXCITED to write and the rest of my story points jumped from my pen onto my fun little chart.

I really should have figured this out earlier - I mean I have always been one of those people that does better looking at the picture than just reading the instructions. But I suppose sometimes you have to fail a few hundred times before you get it right :D

I took the cork board that I had attempted to use  for outlining and I drew the chart form onto the board. It looked like this:



Then, I wrote my plot points onto little notecards and added them to the correct points on the chart. Now it looks like this:



Isn't it pretty!!? And now I have a complete flow chart for my story. It's not heavy duty outlining, but I know where I'm going, when I need to be building tension, and what major points to be aiming for. And suddenly I feel like I can actually finish this story.

It's amazing what a little picture will do for you :)

How about everyone else? Does anyone else use this method, or something similar? Am I the only person out there that has to have a picture to look at before they GET what's going on? :D

16 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

so organized! I did put points onto note cards a while back so it wouldn't take TOO much effort to pin them to a board like that...and yet I probably won't. LOL

Christine Fonseca said...

WOOT for finding something that works for you!

lbdiamond said...

Lovely!

I have no idea what happens next until I sit down and write it. Not exactly the most organized or efficient way to go, so I admire anyone who gets such order to their work.

Michelle McLean said...

Thanks Christine and Vicki :D

Laura, what I like about this method is that I have a few major points in the story that I want to happen but still have total freedom on how to get there. And actually, until I sat down to make the chart I only had a few of those points. Then, while looking at the chart, I'd think "Hmmm, I need to have a reversal for my MC here...what could happen" - and the rest of the main points of the story popped out.

Yet, all the scenes that will connect these main ones are a mystery. So it sort of lets me be a pantser while still giving me a basic guideline.

LOL I've tried to outline so many times and just can't do it, but so far, this way is working very well. I hope it continues, because I think outlining, at least a little bit, will really trim the problems I have come revision time. My goal is to spend less than a year editing this one LOL

Stephanie McGee said...

Congrats!

For me, I have to just kind of come up with chapters, and put down what big things might happen in those.

I have the overall story idea in my head, and usually write that down. It's a bare-bones synopsis of the plot. Then I take that and break it into chapters of a sort.

That's my outlining. Glad you found something that works so totally and completely for you.

Matthew Rush said...

OMG you are so much more organized than me. Still, this is awesome. It looks really cool.

Frank P.R. said...

For a visual writer your approach will be very helpful, I'm sure. I don't go as far as creating a chart but I do layout the plot (plot points) in a spreadsheet. It offers a similar methodical approach and visibility, although not to the extent of charting. I don't think my way is anything new, lots of writers list their plot points out. Also, it's very flexible in moving plot points around in the story—cut and paste is all. If you decide that Aunt Zel's long lost son should be introduced to the story later than earlier, or vice versa, it's only a matter of hitting a few keys on the keyboard.

Otherwise, I keep the story build up (suspense, character dev't, etc...) and progression in my head. A question for you. What does it mean that some of your papers are set higher in the chart than others? Is there a vertical scale? Is it suspense by chance?

If not, there is always the option of simply going straight across with plot points feeding in like a timeline, or fishbone diagram of sorts.

Michelle McLean said...

Hi Frank :) Yes, the chart depicts the rise and fall of the plot. You can't really see the labels I have on there I guess lol

From left to right it goes: Inciting Incident, Rising Action that culminates in a peak, then a Reversal for the MC (where the point on the chart drops), then another rise that leads to another Reversal, then the build to the Climax (the last high point on the chart), and then the Falling Action as the story wraps up leading to the End.

I tried to post a picture of the original chart but my computer wouldn't cooperate. I'll update my post and include the link to the WriteOnCon talk I got it from.

Mathew said...

I am a visual person as well, and have one whole wall in my bedroom dedicated to my flowchart. However, there is way too much info up there to make it useful.

I like the simplicity of this one.

Michelle McLean said...

I like it too, Matthew. It gives me enough structure to help keep my story in line, but it's limited enough that I feel like I still have the freedom to let the story take me where it will :)

Carolyn V. said...

I love this idea! What a great way to see how things are going in the story! =)

Amanda said...

That's similar to how I write. I have to be super organized and know exactly where the story is heading. I always go over my points over and over again until I start the real writing. :)

Kelly Barwick said...

Every test I've ever taken relating to learning style comes up "Visual" so I know what you mean. Sometimes a picture is all I need to finally understand something that three pages of text couldn't explain. I had a chart moment similar to yours when Holly Black gave her keynote at the 2009 SCBWI Summer Conference. She used a chart to illustrate what she called her "crazy theory." She showed two lines instead of one. The first was the typical story line, with rising action, climax, etc. The second line followed the human story of your MC, which should start earlier and end later than your story line.

It was like an entire circus trampled in to the tune of "Celebration" in my head. It made so much sense to me!

Henya said...

I just love this kind of organizing your plot points. Will study your post and try to follow it. It makes sense to have structure in your writing.

Thanks.

Frank P.R. said...

Thanks, Michelle. Charting opens up an approach to lots of other visual tools. They would do the same, more or less, as your chart with variations in them. I was going to mention a ghant chart except it won’t show the vertical climb (to the climax, like most people would expect to see), but still a good organization-visual took. Then there is flow charting (critical path technique) which considers the details in the relationships between the plot points. Can be very useful for plot and character info-details—keeping track of them and seeing where they connect or need to. If cousin Bronson’s girlfriend shows up unannounced at the final confrontation between two characters, how did she know where they would be? Makes you realize a plot point is needed earlier to show how she came to know that.
All good tools that could be applied to a story’s build. If someone wanted to go so far as to measure aspects of the story (character dev’t, suspense, etc...), then a vertical indicator can be applied to your chart (degree of suspense, or depth of char dev’t). It would dictate how fast the chart’s plot line climbs, which can help balance the story. That is, avoiding one scene stealing the thunder of another, so to speak, as in it’s over the top, or not enough (too much). Having said that, it will be more effective if more plot points are used. The more rising action points (or scenes) the more need to balance them so they consistently rise with the story. I suppose even the post climax plot points could be handled this way, that is if the story doesn’t wrap up shortly after the climax. One after another, they bring the story to a close, with a paced and ease denouement. That will depend on the author’s idea of the story. My apologies for going on so long on this. I have done a fair bit of work with charts and the like (even taught about it at college). Their applications are numerous. Visual tools are very helpful. Great blog!

Frank P.R. said...

Thanks, Michelle. Charting opens up an approach to lots of other visual tools. They would do the same, more or less, as your chart with variations in them. I was going to mention a ghant chart except it won’t show the vertical climb (to the climax, like most people would expect to see), but still a good organization-visual took. Then there is flow charting (critical path technique) which considers the details in the relationships between the plot points. Can be very useful for plot and character info-details—keeping track of them and seeing where they connect or need to. If cousin Bronson’s girlfriend shows up unannounced at the final confrontation between two characters, how did she know where they would be? Makes you realize a plot point is needed earlier to show how she came to know that.
All good tools that could be applied to a story’s build. If someone wanted to go so far as to measure aspects of the story (character dev’t, suspense, etc...), then a vertical indicator can be applied to your chart (degree of suspense, or depth of char dev’t). It would dictate how fast the chart’s plot line climbs, which can help balance the story. That is, avoiding one scene stealing the thunder of another, so to speak, as in it’s over the top, or not enough. Having said that, it will be more effective if more plot points are used. The more rising action points (or scenes) the more need to balance them so they consistently rise with the story. I suppose even the post climax plot points could be handled this way, that is if the story doesn’t wrap up shortly after the climax. One after another, they bring the story to a close, with a paced and ease denouement. That will depend on the author’s idea of the story. My apologies for going on so long on this. I have done a fair bit of work with charts and the like (even taught about it at college). Their applications are numerous. Visual tools are very helpful. Great blog!