“I can’t plot fiction,” a student told me. “My mind doesn’t work that way.”
She’s a fellow pantser. We pantsers can plot, if we have to, but plotting kills our inspiration for our novel.
In our Hot Plots program, I teach an organic method of plotting which convinces pantsers that they can plot. However, all you need to do to become comfortable writing your novels is a basic structure for a novel which stops you getting hopelessly stuck.
Think of it as “fill-in-the-blanks” plotting.
Let’s look at that now.
Fill-in-the-blanks: a way to plot fiction for people who hate to plot
Here’s all you need to know for fill-in-the-blanks plotting from Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It:
* The setup (approximately a quarter of your novel, in which you set up your story.) After you’ve set things up, you’re moving to…
* The midpoint — what it says. This is the first big turning point of your story, where everything changes. Your story goes in a new direction. Next you head for…
* Story twist number 2. Another turning point. Your main character has tried to change. It’s not working. Things look black, and you’re heading for…
* The showdown. The make or break. The big fight your character needs to win. The story winds down, with…
* The resolution. The killer’s identified in a mystery. The world’s saved in a thriller, and it’s hearts and flowers in a romance.
Story Twist 2 happens at around the 80% point of your novel.
How to get started with fill-in-the-blanks plotting
Yesterday I finished the first draft of a novel, so this morning I started a new novel, with very little preparation. The novel is in a sub-genre (actually a sub-sub genre of romance.) I’ve never written a novel in this category before, so it will be fun, albeit challenging.
Last night I jotted a few ideas on a pad. This morning, I roughed out a couple of ideas for the main character, using an easy character-creation method. All you need to create a basic character is an adjective, combined with a noun. The noun is usually the character’s job. Some examples:
- Naive model;
- Bedazzled lottery winner;
- Hardworking hairdresser;
- Jealous chef.
You can come up with any number of these thumbnail “characters” in a minute or two.
Once I had my main character, I wrote a couple of paragraphs of background, and I was good to start writing. I always like to keep very loose during a novel’s setup. I find the best character and plot ideas come to me while I’m writing. If I plot without writing, all I get are cliched characters and obvious plots.
After an hour, I had 1200 words, which was a good start.
By the time I’ve reached the 30% point of the novel, I’ll have the first plot twist, which kicks the main character into action, as well as the midpoint twist. And by the time I reach the novel’s midpoint, I’ll know what the novel’s climax will be so I tend to write that next.
Make fill-in-the-blanks plotting your own: it’s a freeform way to “plot”
When you’re using the fill-in-the-blanks method, you have way-markers you need to reach. In between those markers, you can write any scenes you please. There are no rules, but do remember that you essentially have two plots, as I explained in The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction:
* The external plot is what happens.
* The internal plot is what your main character, or characters, think(s) about what happens.
Just keep asking your characters WHY. I’ll need to ask my main character of my new novel exactly that shortly, because this morning I had no idea of her motivation for what she did. 🙂
Try fill-in-the-blanks plotting. It’s plotting for pantsers. 🙂
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