NNWM – Plotting

Yesterday I discussed some ideas for developing characters. If you went along with the writing exercise and wrote a scene, what problem(s) did the character reveal?

When a character has a problem they need to resolve, that becomes a character goal. A character’s goal sets them off in a direction. Once you’ve got a character moving, making plans, picking among choices, they’ll start facing obstacles. The process of facing obstacles, whether they come from people or situations, is conflict.

How to Write Story Plot: Tips, Tricks, and Margaret Atwood's Writing  Prompts - 2020 - MasterClass

Where there’s conflict, you’ve got plot.

NaNoWriMo (@NaNoWriMo) | Twitter

Getting a character to their goal is an exercise in problem-solving. So the first thing you’ve got to do is develop a plan for (attempting to) solving the problem. This becomes the rising action, all the conflict in your plot map based on what does and doesn’t work to move the character further along the path to getting what they want (character goal).

The technique I recommend for quick plotting (such as is needed for NaNoWriMo) is brainstorming. It’s like asking the main character “what are you going to try?” List all the answers the character gives to this question:

What are all the things you think you need in order to achieve your goal?

Keys to Screenwriting: Brainstorming | by Scott Myers | Go Into The Story

In a “quest” plot, these are all the tchotchkes that will locate, get past all the dangers, and open the treasure chest. In a “I want to get into my dream college” plot, it’s all the things that need to be good-looking on the application, like grades, extra curricular activities, test scores, the application essay, finding financial resources, etc. In a “wanna get this girl” plot, it’s the finding out what she likes in a guy, doing all the different kinds of “notice me” things, and then finally not sounding like an a** and talking to her to get the date. LOL

Now, put those random ideas into some sort of order by asking:

Well, what do you wanna try first?

Since you can’t do all those things at the same time, one has to be tried first. This can be sorted chronologically: certain tests are only given at certain times, maybe a full moon-stars alignment is necessary to get a piece necessary for opening the treasure chest, etc.

Then ask: And if that doesn’t work? Or if it works only so far, what next?

Use this to work through all their brainstormed options, writing down the next step and the next step and the next step.

Recommendation: Put each of these on their own separate notecard, or in your word processing file at the top of its own separate page

TIP: press Ctrl-Enter to insert a hard page break on a new line rather than hitting enter to go down and down and down to the next page.

TIP: Don’t number them, but format the first few words of the text as a heading, so that you can use the word processing program’s table of contents function. If enough people message me going “huh?” on how to do that, I’ll write a how-to post.

The reason you need separate cards or separate pages is because you might be moving these steps around. And later you can convert these headings to part/chapter titles or simply numbers.

The final thing you need to ask your character in this part is:

Are you willing to cheat? If so, why and how? Add to each step how they envision this cheating.

There’s one more day of plotting, so come back tomorrow and I’ll talk about figuring in the points of opposition whether the antagonist is a real person or an internal character trait.

~ Lara

3 thoughts on “NNWM – Plotting

    1. Lara Zielinsky Post author

      Oh, yes, Carolyn. Think up all the things she would try to convince her ex she’s changed, or that she “really gets” her now. She’d think of all the things the ex liked that maybe she pooh-poohed in the past, and plan some things to (try to) show she is willing to do them now. These of course will be “surface” attempts. The growth in the story will occur as she realizes the activities were not the thing, but the way that the ex liked the time spent together. For your situation, I’d investigate the 5 love languages which I’ve mentioned before in this blog, and see how they mismatch up and plumb the lists of activities for ideas. DM me if you want a link for the 5 Love Languages test. You can have your characters take it and gain some insight into their similarities and differences and maybe what blew up their relationship in the past can be repaired with some conscious effort on the main character’s part.

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