As I’ve been working on the new PNR idea, I’ve been thinking about my plotting processes and how they’ve evolved over the years. There are so many different ways to think about story structure, from the Witch’s original “Block” idea, to the Marshall Plan, the Hero’s Journey, Save the Cat…
All of them speak to me at various stages or for different things. Save the Cat has really taught me to come full circle, to think about how I’m going to start and how I’m going to end, and what that means from the very beginning.
Breaking out all of those worksheets for the Marshall Plan is not for me. It’s just too tedious. I still learned a lot though, mostly to keep that push through each and every scene for what changed. Why include it here?
The Hero’s Journey still speaks the most to me, but sometimes I need something a little simpler. One thing I’ve read more about this year is the try/fail sequence. Sometimes that helps me come up with what I want to happen in the middle. (How can I make this worse?) There’s also the 7-point plot.
And if your head is whirling now… You’re not the only one.
What I’ve decided is that just like I prefer a different tarot deck for each major story world, I sometimes need a different way to think about plot for each story too. Sometimes I use a little Save the Cat combined with try/fail until I get to the end. Sometimes I’m hero’s journey all the way. Sometimes I have a character show up in my head and just take over the whole damned show and all I can do is hang on for the ride. Other times, it’s the world that comes to me first, and I have to figure out how to populate that world with cool and interesting characters who have something to say.
In the end, use ALL or NOTHING or PART of any of the methods to help you. The more you know, the better.
Just for kicks and giggles, I’m building a simple one-page spreadsheet that highlights all of these plot methods so I can see the major points at a glance. If you’re curious, take a peek (pdf).