View Full Version : Plotting. If you're looking for ideas....

31-05-2002, 18:37:00
I have been going the rounds working out some plots. I have found myself lost and overwhelemed when writing long stories. Without a 'map' it's hard to rewrite.

Yet, if I plot or outline, I find it kills the muse big time.

So, recently, I found this one writer's idea very useful.

She makes a chart that looks like:

31-05-2002, 18:43:45
The idea is to plug in information in each column/row that you will use when you write those chapters.

I modified mine. My 'theme' column is also referred to as 'tone,' it's where you plug in the 'mood' so to speak of the chapter.

"Pace" will be slow, moderate or fast and those two columns link with 'Plot' which describes the external action taking place in that chapter. Plug in your notes there.

Where she has 'Romance', you would label it for whatever genre you are writing I suppose, or consider it your column to track your character's internal growth...as he/she changes throughout the novel.

I thought this was great because then I could plot the story without having felt like I had already written it, but to tell you the truth, actually coming up with what to write in each square (and it will be sketchy and flesh out as you actually write the story, but it gives you a great start and great way to keep it all organized and out of your head so you can work with it)--was something I couldn't do.

So under the theme/tone column, this is what I did.

For every chapter I wrote in a song title. I write well with music. Infact, the majority of my ideas come from songs.

So I just followed my instinct and started listening to music, and when I 'saw' the story in my head, I started plugging in my notes under plot and (for me) romance...pace was easy to gather from the song and the song is easy enough to refer to so I can pick up on mood, tone, internal frame of thinking for my characters and story. Plot leads to plot chapter by chapter because those are action boxes; one action leads to the next. The 'romance' or 'internal' category will build off your plot categories. Every action will prompt questions--not only about why certain actions are taking place (which leads the story on in the plot category) but also how the character reacts emotionally and what the character thinks about these actions and what he/she will do about it--that would be the 'internal' category.

Maybe this gives you ideas and helps you plot your own stories.

Sure broke my writing block. :) I'm very pleased. I can use this for a better honed synopsis or outline when I query agents and publishers.

I got this idea from this site:


05-06-2002, 13:30:54
cool link - i went to the writers workshop webring and there were some other very interesting sites there:

Actually Joyce used a smiliar chart technique to plan out the chapters in Ullysses, except as befits such an incredible piece of literature his went way beyond simple plotting requirements to include things like a 'colour' column to associate a colur with every chapter and a 'physic' column to associate a body part with every chapter. I'll try and find a graphic online to illustrate my point. :)

05-06-2002, 14:00:10
Top tip LoC

05-06-2002, 14:10:07
That is a good tip. I never plan anything I write normally, it just kind of flows out.

05-06-2002, 15:32:34
I make lots of plans, and then ignore them all when I start actually writing.

05-06-2002, 21:02:15
Well, I usually just write from the gut, but for pieces going for 100,000 words, I needed a way to keep focus...some sort of map or compass, especially since I write character driven stories and the characters take right off and create too many messes to mop up.

The thing for me is keeping sight of my audience--and anticipate the messes and choose which mess works best.

The same story can be told in many ways, but different things are highlighted depending on the genre...or so it seems.

So this one story I have, while intended for the romance genre, got way off track because the main theme went from romance and the two people working it out to this inner conflict with the main character.

And here I have been waist deep in chapters that don't have the oomph to go into 'literature' and just got hopelessly lost for the romance genre.

After you live with characters too long you want to evict them and get new occupants. And I'm tired of writing stuff I can't sell.

I have no shame. I want sales. So I need focus. :)

This plotting idea is like a recipe for me. I can use it as a guide, but if it's for making cookies, that's what I should end up with...and not steak tartar.

And still...writer friends have pointed out that they don't plot or use outlines and neither has Stephen King. Well, that's cool, but I don't know how to pull threads and make changes in the re-write if I don't know what it is I intended in those chapters.

Coming up with everything and anything else is never the problem. It's just my aim (target audience) that needs more accuracy.

So for those who like to have a little foundation and yet break their own rules, but still have something to fall back on, this could work.

For me, listing songs has been excellent. Say I'm not in the mood, but want to meet a deadline, and reading the chart does nothing for me...I just pop in a CD and I see the whole chapter.

So I'm set. Right now I have just been baking a lot of cakes and cleaning a lot of house and yard just letting the characters and the feel of the story simmer.

Anybody else do that? You find yourself fall into menial rote labor or hobbies while a story brews?

05-06-2002, 21:15:08
Driving. If I need to think on something and get my head wrapped around it, taking a long drive or walk always seems to do the trick. My body and lower senses are engaged in an activity, so they're not vibrating in response to my agitation, and my higher functions are free to mull over the problem. I've done some of my best writing in the car (in my head). Remember ACOL High School? First chapter of that was put together entirely during a drive from Baltimore to Lynchburg, VA. I had a lot of little ideas, and that four hour jaunt gave me time to put them together and fill in the gaps without getting distracted by the task of actually writing any of it, where I can get caught up in the details and lose the direction. The only problem with this approach is getting myself to a pad and pencil fast enough afterwards to get it all recorded before it evaporates again.

06-06-2002, 00:18:11
Oh, yeah! There isn't a backroad in the county that I haven't driven on doing that same sort of writing.

Sometimes a certain time of day changes the scenery and affects the story and sometimes it's the music I play, too.

Somewhere I read/heard that 'taking a trip' was a significant part of the creative process before the actual writing starts--whether it be a long trip, a back road or a break from the usual routine.

06-06-2002, 00:35:50
"Taking a trip" hehehehe.

06-06-2002, 08:47:29
Hey, it worked for Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and many more :smoke:

06-06-2002, 08:54:37
Train journeys for me. Only problem is I can't remember what I've thought of when I get home or if I can it's mutated so much that when I start writing it it's something totally different which is fine.

06-06-2002, 10:30:40
yeah train journeys are great for thinking - this is just one of many reasons why i do not envy car drivers

06-06-2002, 10:38:06
I do most of my reading on the train as well.

06-06-2002, 18:57:38
The plotting might really help me with my heftier novel. It is a collection of short stories centered around a larger story, with lots of symbolism and crap like that. But it is so difficult making sure the short stories fit the theme and mood of the entire book to make a coherent novel. So I think breaking it up a bit in sort of an outline will allow me to think over it before I put it down. Otherwise, I tend to flow off track and end up deleting pages of useless crap (not that any of it is more than that anyway ;) ).

Music is good. I think the mood of my novel is captured perfectly in Beethoven's 3rd Symphony Movement II. But you have to be careful, if jazz suddenly comes on, it can change everything. :)

06-06-2002, 23:03:05
Originally posted by King_Ghidra
Hey, it worked for Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and many more :smoke:

But for many it doesn't work. And it really aggravates the suicide rate.

Check out the would be writers in college.

06-06-2002, 23:06:55
DaShi--sounds familiar!

I've written lots of useless stuff. Good writing, no use for it, though. :) And bugged if want to keep qualifying it as a great lesson! :p

Changing the music can change the story, but I am pretty dogged anyway.

I'm finding that now that I listed the music 'for' the story, I know what NOT to listen to when I want to take a break.

It's nice. I have never been able to take a break before.

14-06-2002, 07:34:29
I always found music I can half zen to, to be excellent for musing along.

I've ran across a interesting mixture of programs to let writers map out things like that, Dona. None of them are free of course, but some have some demos... I've been meaning to give them some real trial time, see how they might really help people...

14-06-2002, 07:41:04
Oh... and for me, what to avoid... Reading interesting stuff. Right now, I get just enough outlet for my creativity through work and day to day interactions, that any reading of interesting stuff wipes out my interest in *writing*.

Not that anyone cares, but I'm curious if anyone else feels similar.

14-06-2002, 09:17:54
Reading interesting stuff always inspires me to write things, especially if I like the way the person writes or it makes me think of things that I want to write about.

14-06-2002, 19:05:02
Darkstar! He lives! He breathes! *happy dance, happy dance*

I was just getting ready to light candles and place you on some prayer lists and have people start dredging backwoods swamps for your body. :p

Regarding reading while writing--I can't do both. If I am already in the mood to write or am writing, sometimes it will interfere.

On the other hand, it's a great way to shake up some good ideas when I have nothing going for me.

I tend to write for awhile then read. Sometimes the periods are short, sometimes they are for months at a time.

Butl ately I find that what Funkodrom says is true, too.

Love it, the more things stay the same, the more they change. :)

14-06-2002, 19:07:06
You know what, that's crap.

When I write fiction, I read non-fiction and spiritual things.

When I write spiritual things, I read fiction.

It's like the opposite gives me a break.

When I want ideas, I read the newspaper, especially the editorials. That gets me going for non-fiction stuff.

When I want a story, I listen to music.

14-06-2002, 19:08:02
And that's crap, too. Because I am reading the same category that I write now.

Okay, shoot me.

I am a woman. I am a writer. Did you really expect a straight answer?

14-06-2002, 20:23:54