Plot points, crisis, and climax, oh my! I have been reading up on plotting, taking a deep dive into process and techniques, attempting to distill the information that others have provided in books like The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen, and The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman into something that I can easily absorb and make part of my ingrained writing process and inform my teaching process, as well.
This is not the first time I have delved into plot at this level. A couple of years ago, I published an essay about plot called “Plot Isn’t Just a Four-Letter Word,” You can find it on line here for free. However, what I am currently focused on is not about the relevance of plot or how it feeds into the whole of what makes fiction work. I continue to believe that without an engaging character with some form of character arc, the reader not only has no one to travel with, but no reason to embark upon the journey. Plot, on the other hand, is also a critical element, as it includes the trials and tribulations that temper character and reveal the true nature of the protagonist with whom we have decided to hitch a ride.
Starting with plot is not how I work. While I know many talented, skillful writers who plot out the story before hanging the narrative on that initial structure, my process always starts with character. Character is what takes hold of me, what piques my interest. Character is my starting point. But I recognize that plot is also required to take the reader on an engaging adventure. In my stories, the plot evolves as I come to know the character. Because of this, I generally end up massaging and sometimes even developing many of the plot points during the revision stages of writing.
So, I decided that I wanted to explore plot more deeply, to try and see how those other writers manage it, how they come to story from the direction of plot. It’s taking me time to do this, to make my brain understand all the complicated bits that go into plotting in an objective way that (I hope) will feed my intuitive/creative brain in a manner that will help me find the plot earlier in the writing process. If not, I have lost nothing, as I still have to find my way into plot at some point, still need to infuse the story with the elements that make up plot—situation, complication, (satisfying) resolution—to ensure I give my readers a well-rounded, fully executed story, which is after all the goal.
I’m very interested to see how, and if, this journey to fill my brain with plotting techniques changes my writing process. So, let the plotting begin!