There has been a slight change in our programming schedule for the month. Have no fear, the Storytime post that was to be on October 5th has been delayed only for a short time and will now appear on November 3rd. Instead, to help prepare those of you who are about to embark on NaNoWriMo, I will be posting a series of blogs I have previously published about writing. This post first appeared in October of 2015 and has been updated with new information.
Finally. You have your characters and they are super interesting. You have built a world, or a setting that tickles your brain noddle. At this point you are probably ready to start writing that book! Well, hold your cheese nacho, before you embark on a meandering discord about how your main character wakes up with her really interesting life and takes out the garbage in her really interesting house, maybe we should talk about plot.
So what is a plot? Well according to the dictionary it is ͞the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.͟ Simply put, plot is what actually happens in your story. This seems simple enough, most of us have a series of events that we want to portray through our stories. We have a narrative we want to express and to share with others. However, we must be careful how we go about showing that narrative because plot is one of the easiest ways to ruin a novel. What do I mean by this? Have you ever been taken out of a story because the author had to stop everything and explain what was going on midway through? Or how about when the main character does something totally out of character? Or when a plot hole is so glaringly obvious that you can’t stop thinking about why the characters didn’t realize it? These are some examples of poor plotting. The goal of your novel is to convey your story in a fashion that keeps the reader engaged. In other words, it needs to follow certain rules and certain principles. We need to tell a story that brings our characters and our readers along a certain path, but that path needs to be well hidden.
A lot of writers tend to see their plots as a series of plot points and they write them as if they are unrelated to one another. Instead we should think of plot as a journey. A journey your characters and your readers are both taking together. Your plot, characters, and settings all need to interact with each other; not stand apart from one another. You cannot have a plot in a vacuum, the characters and the world around them will greatly effect the events in your story. Some people will argue until they are blue in the face that you must manipulate the plot in such a way that you force your characters to be where you need them. Others argue that your characters should drive your plot regardless of what you want to say. I think both of these camps are looking at this to simply. The author must be an orchestra conductor, controlling and weaving together the elements of character, setting and plot without letting one element override the others. You can’t tell a story without these three elements. If one dominates the others then that is all your readers will remember. Maybe that is your goal to write about worlds or characters so engrossing that plot doesn’t matter, for my purposes though I want to tell a good story. One that involves all of these elements woven together.
Your characters are shaped by the world around them, when plot events occur to your characters they react, as these characters interact with the setting they are creating the next plot point. The fluid movement of plot and character and setting, each interacting and changing one another is similar to how we go about our own lives. We don’t wake up and decide that Tuesday will be interesting. Life is not a string of plot points; it is an organic thing being created from one moment to the next. This is what we are aiming for when we create plot. We have a few days left until November. If you don’t know what will happen in your book yet, don’t panic. I personally like to have only a sketch of a plot before I head into my writing time. The beginning (Exposition), the middle (usually the climax) and the end (the falling action) I don’t know how I am going to hit these targets, I have no ordered plot outlines or sample chapters. I just set my aim and loose my arrow. These next few days develop your plot, figure out what happens between the front cover and the back. Then relax. November first is around the corner, you’ll want to save some strength for when NaNoWriMo actually begins.