Anyone who knows me knows that I am a plotter through and through. I cannot begin to write a book, novella, or short story without a detailed outline that shows me exactly where I’m going on my journey through my book.
I’ve always been a very linear focused person, in anything I do. I begin at point A and don’t stop until I get to point Z. I once wrote a novella in which I knew that in the final scene thee would be a particular line, and I couldn’t skip ahead and write that scene–or the line–until I had finished the rest of the story leading up to it. And man, when I got there it was quite a relief to get it finally on paper.
So I don’t skip around. How can you write chapter 10 before chapter 1? How on earth would you know what had happened in chapter 8 or 9 that could impact chapter 10 if you haven’t written them yet? I am in awe of pantsers who do that stuff on a regular basis.
Plotting out the entire story gives me a road map that I can follow, so I can make all the right turns and not go off onto detours that only waste time and go nowhere. I hate to have to back track. And dead ends are no fun at all. Of course, I don’t follow my outline slavishly. If I discover a short cut, or a different route along the way that works better, I’ll take it and enjoy the new part of the ride, until we get back on the major plot highway.
I generally use what is called the 3-Act plot, taking the terminology from the theatre world where the first act includes exposition or background, an inciting incident, and the beginning of rising action. Act 2 continues the rising action including conflict and complications that come to a point in Act 3, which includes the black moment, the crisis, and the denouement or falling action.
A major element in the plot is the conflict. You need to know who your protagonist (main character) is, who your antagonist (the character who wants to thwart the protagonist) is, what each of these characters wants (their goals) , and the conflicts and complications that arise to keep them from getting to those goals.
The characters’ goals must be compelling in order for the reader to want to invest their time in reading about these characters’ struggles. How they achieve their goals is the journey the plot takes them on. They may take those detours, they may come to dead ends, or they may end up changing their destination entirely. But the journey or the plot, must hold the reader’s attention, keep them wanting to turn those pages until journey’s end.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? have you ever been able to switch from one way of writing to the other? Are you a blend (plotser)? How is it working out for you?