How to Find Your Basic Plot14:00
April is right around the corner, and with it comes Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re taking up the challenge like me, then you might be prepping your plot in anticipation of the big day. Maybe, like me, you’re lacking a bit in the ideas department. You might be struggling to come to grips with a new genre, or just trying to flesh out a brand new idea into something you can work with. Whatever your plotting problem is, fear not! I have several steps that always help me when I’m getting to grips with the outline of a brand new story.
Start by identifying your story goal: What is your story about anyway? Is it an epic quest to slay a dragon? A romance where the boy wants to win the girl? Identifying your story goal is the first step to having a solid basis for your story. Make sure you’re clear on what’s really happening in this book.
Work out what you know: Do you have ideas for random scenes? Are there relationships you’d like to cultivate? Events you would like to add to your plotline? Write it down. You might not have enough for an entire plot yet, but you might be surprised at how much you actually know about this book. Plus, going through what you know can inspire other ideas. And writing down these things gives you a skeleton to build the rest of the plot around.
Get to know your characters: Who is this delightful cast of colourful characters you’re planning to spend the next month with? What do they do with their lives? What are their hopes and dreams? Their disappointments? Interview your characters. Fill out questionnaires if you like them. Dig into their backstories. Plot ideas often grow naturally from characters, so by getting to know your characters, you might find yourself generating new plot ideas. Plus it’s always helpful to know something about the people you’re going to spend an entire book with.
Build around what you have: You might not have a full plot yet. But you do have an idea that your questers are going to cut through a quicksand bog and nearly lose a companion to the treacherous sands. Brainstorm around this event. Why did they cut through the bog? What made them so desperate as to risk the quicksand? Are they being chased? Are they on a fast approaching deadline? Building around what you already know allows you to fill in smaller gaps rather than being faced with the daunting task of coming up with an entire book.
If you can, brainstorm with someone else: One of my sisters loves helping me fill in my plot holes. We spend an evening talking about the book, discussing ideas and bouncing suggestions off each other, and the plot just seems to materialise of its own accord. If you have someone else to help you, try brainstorming with them. They may be able to suggest connections and ideas that didn’t occur to you, or could trigger some new ideas of your own.
These are a few of the steps I follow when I’m trying to outline a basic plot for a new book. What do you do when you’re plotting? Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? What will you be writing about? If you’re not doing Camp NaNo, what are you working on at the moment?