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Plotting: More Raw Data

Originally published at Joely Sue Burkhart. You can comment here or there.

Remember “the Plan” I defined…what…Sunday night? I never expected *I* might be the one who gets sick. Middle Monster has been fighting the fall allergy/barky cough/sore throat/cold thing and she shared the wealth with me. I’m not too sick for coffee yet and have some Zycam (sp?) stashed away somewhere. I have a business trip in about a week, so I can’t get sick.

As I said, I’m switching gears to the Mayan urban fantasy. Despite having tons of worldbuilding and background character development (since I’ve written basically 65K of backstory with NSR), I’m really starting from ground zero again. It’s back to the drawing board for raw data. I love this stage of writing — there’s something so infectous about brainstorming Story, the back-and-forth volley of “what if” and “how” and … Oh, wow, that is so cool!

One technique I use that I don’t think I mentioned so much in the recent series of plotting posts is how I brainstorm. I thank Mr. Baker for this technique, my high school art and freshman English teacher, who also taught me all of the Greek prefix/suffixes I still play with. (Hello, “mythomorphoses” anyone?) I’ve also heard it called clustering. Some might call it Mind Mapping. While I do have FreeMind on my computer, it doesn’t work for this stage (for me). I need pencil, paper, and the act of scribbling bubbles and doodling on the page for the magic to happen.

Don’t discount this technique as being too artsy/fartsy. It really can work. Sometimes it’s the motion of my hand, the freer process instead of typing, that shakes story loose for me. When all else fails, change pens or paper, too. Don’t laugh. Color (ink or paper) and texture (paper) can stimulate other parts of your brain, too, that aren’t so linear and analytical. I always studied with colored pens to keep my brain awake and as a very anal compulsive obsessive perfectionist, I practially majored in studying.

Brainstorming can be as easy as starting with a key word, character, or question, and draw a bubble around it. Then play a kind of word association game. You can truly do the “no thought” answer and simply jot any word that comes to mind. I’ve actually gotten some fairly interesting connections that way, although it’s a rather ”elementary” beginning to this process. I like to get more specific with this technique and ask tailored questions to get to the heart of my character or plot.

For the Mayan story, I started with my general group of antagonists. I drew a bubble for their goal and spelled that out in 3 little words. Then I began asking: why? how? when? what does that mean? Part of the natural process led to a second group of people in the story that are in direct opposition (independent of the protagonist). I’ll start a new page for their goals, but I thought the immediate intersection of two opposite groups was pretty cool. I like direct opposition. Conflict is good.

And at the very middle of that intersection, I found Ruin. Hmmm. No, he’s not the protagonist either–I fully expected to find Jaid at the intersection, trapped between a rock and a hard place, literally. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if he’d still be around. Remember this little tidbit later after you read the serialization of NSR…

Off to bed and hopefully this cold won’t get any worse.

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