If you ever struggle with plotting, or feel as though your planning process is going kind of slow, here is a method to help you ease with swift, speedy awesomeness through the process.
Plotting That Plods
When you sit down and tell yourself to come up with an interesting plot, you may find yourself running dry of fascinating devices.
It’s hard to be clever on the spot, or to draw up complex, intriguing plot sequences on command. The end result, sometimes, is plotting that plods along and is boring to plan and boring to read.
The opposite of boring, staid plotting is snappy, intriguing plotting. How, though, to come up with a snappy plot?
The key here is use where you are and what you are to serve your creative purposes. Have you ever heard that old adage, “Write what you know”?
For the purposes of plotting, this doesn’t mean so much that you need to write whatever you actually live, but that you follow the surge in natural impulses and curiosity in your spirit and mind.
Ask the Questions
You can always come up with a great plot if you start out with a good question. A ‘what if’, if you will. I like to begin with a short character sketch and then stretch the parameters of the implied scenario into a plot.
Once I have one scene (which gives me a character, some supporting people or locations, and a base premise of what the character is doing and why they are where they are), the rest of the plot can be formed around that initial starting point.
I do this, and it can easily be done, by asking pertinent questions about the information you’ve already established.
If we start with a base character and a scenario (for example, Dina has three days to procure the miracle drug Finfanfu and save her own life), then we turn our minds to the first, most interesting question that presents itself, which forms the most urgent topic at hand.
The first question is: what’s wrong with her, and what will the miracle drug Finfanfu do for her?
Once we answer that first question, we’ll have uncovered mounds of new topics, contextually connected scenarios, and related characters, which will lead to many more useful and urgent questions.
Once we have a strong question leading to a satisfying finishing answer, we can form a plot.
Really Bad Writing
Dina’s face was not doing well. Her arms, also, were doing unwell. Dina figured that she would be able to hang onto some of her skin for another two years, as long as she held to the best-recommended practices and wore her protective coverings all the time.
She wore them at work. She wore them at her few free moments of play. She even wore them when she slept at night, and the scrubbing, dull feel of the scarvel cloth made her insides squirm with discomfort.
She had never been happy at home, and she was least happy now than she’d been before because exciting things were starting to happen in the city.
Dina was sick, but her doctor was pretty sure they could keep up the treatments and make her live longer. He thought there would be a breakthrough, and she would not die at all, because the social-sharing method of medical advances, when they came, was so fair and sound that Dina was sure everyone would help take care of her.
She was pretty sure she wouldn’t die at all, even though she was in the process of dying now.
Dina’s face and arms were literally falling apart. She kept herself wrapped in silky gauze, and moved as little as she could when she went home at night. She had to move during the day, but she kept her artificial skin coverings on religiously, and only used her gun when it was really necessary.
As an enforcement officer on the western Strand, Dina could not afford the replacement skin treatments that could have preserved her flesh for a few more years. There was no real hope for her; she was rotting away, losing flakes of her skin every night and getting gradually more pink and raw.
On Tuesday, the night after Dina had gotten drunk and thought about living more dangerously in order to eke some enjoyment out of her shortening future, an announcement came over the subway intercom that she hardly listened to at first.
“That would be good for you. Will you go in for the trials?” the women next to Dina asked.
“What?” Dina asked. Her voice came out muffled through the heavy artificial skin.
“That new drug. Weren’t you listening?” the woman asked.
Start with where you and use what you are to ask basic, driving questions about your character and the scenario they’re in. These pertinent questions reveal theme, create obvious plot points, and eventually form all the plot you’ll need for your snappy, awesome novel.
You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m starting work on a science fiction blurb.