Michille: Plotting Continued

NotecardsMy blog post of February 27 was about an idea I had to start plotting my next book before I finish my WIP so that the voices from the next stop drowning out the voices in the current. My idea was to use notecards as scene holders. Before I actually started, I did more analysis so that I could space out the scenes by character POV, know where the turning points should fall, and pace the overall story to keep the action and emotion escalating to the climax. I also thought this would help in the event that the scene in my head was clearly related to a turning point or a particular act.

When I did the math (in the post from 2/27), I came up with 50 scenes. I like a 4-act story with five turning points and a resolution/denouement. I put more scenes in the earlier acts than in the later acts so that the story moves faster in acts 3 and 4. The way the scenes fell out of this analysis was as follows:

  • Turning Point – Inciting incident. 1 scene.
  • Act 1. 12 scenes to introduce all the characters, establish the main plot and the subplot, establish the goals of the 2 main and 2 secondary characters, and throw all the flaws and problems out there (preferably with some of these hidden in foreshadowing and other plot devices so there are some surprises later).
  • Turning Point – Change of Plans. 1 scene.
  • Act 2. 11 scenes of fun and games with the characters struggling in a world that has gotten worse because the change of plans didn’t work out as expected.
  • Turning Point – Point of No Return. I have 2 scenes for this. One for the main plot and one for the subplot, which probably will not end up back to back as they are currently arranged in the note cards.
  • Act 3. 10 scenes of the characters dealing with a world that, once again, got worse instead of better.
  • Turning Point – Crisis/Dark Night of the Soul. I have 2 scenes here, as well. One for the main plot and one for the subplot.
  • Act 4. 9 scenes of character actions/reactions to the dark night/all is lost turning point. I added the climax for the subplot in these scenes because I wanted it over with a couple scenes before the main plot climaxed.
  • Climax. 1 scene.
  • Resolution/denouement. 1 scene. Some people don’t like these. I do. I like to see the new world order with the fictional proof that the changes occurred and to know that the bad guys, if there are bad guys, have really been vanquished.

This is a very prescriptive plot outline. This is the first time I’ve plotted before starting to write so I’ve never been this precise in my plotting. I expect many changes but the little green note card box is easy to stick in my tote, and easy to grab a card from that corresponds with the scene idea. For example, Sarah, having been stymied by Finch on the permit to add on to the house she inherited, goes to the building inspector’s office to try to figure a way around the code that doesn’t allow for it. This is Sarah’s POV because the building inspector is a minor character and it should occur early as this would be an obvious “next step” after getting shot down by Finch. Therefore, I grabbed a pink card (Sarah’s POV color) from Act 1 and jotted down the characters (Sarah v Building Inspector), the conflict (Sarah wants to add on at the 3rd level, but city code does not allow new structures that high), setting (office at city hall), etc. The idea is now out of the head and on a notecard in approximately the right place. If it goes the way term papers went in high school and college, I will end up with more than 50 notecards, which I can then rearrange and toss out what doesn’t work as I write and edit.

Now, back to my WIP.

17 thoughts on “Michille: Plotting Continued

  1. This sounds awesome, Michille! My only suggestion, based on my post from the other day (and what I’m finding lacking in my own plotting), is to write down the action (the “doing”) that moves the story forward, and perhaps the beginning stakes and ending stakes. You have that, and you have everything you need to start sketching out the scene! Congrats!

  2. Gosh, you’re organized. I like the idea though, and perhaps this is something that I should force myself to do, because I could probably use some more structure. I’m using Scrivener for everything, and it’s at least nothing is lost, even if my scribbles and notes are all over the place. If I make use of paper and pen, the Chaos that reigns in the office would probably eat my plot for breakfast.

    • Well, Cay, this is the first time I’ve tried it this way and it really is intended to be a device to keep me moving on my current WIP. The story I’m jotting on note cards is the next story that is getting in the way of my current one. I have Scrivener, but I don’t use it. I have the PC version and I find it horribly cumbersome. It stalls and shuts down repeatedly. I keep meaning to do some troubleshooting on it, but haven’t gotten around to it. Mostly because I don’t see the value in the program because of all the problems. Catch 22.

  3. This is a great refresher on how to plot out a story, Michille. I’m working on plotting out ACT III & IV (something I didn’t do for I & II) and will definitely refer to your model.

  4. Wow, Michille, this looks amazing. I keep trying to plan my story in an organised fashion, so far with no success. I work that way in other areas of my life, and I keep thinking it’s something that should come naturally, but it doesn’t seem to.

    I think index cards could work for me when I get to the end of this re- write and start outlining.

    • I did the outline in chart form for the structure class. It worked, too, but got too cumbersome with all the information I had to put in it. Of course, that book is much further along than this next one.

  5. This looks great! Keep us posted on how it ends up working out. So far, if I get ideas towards plots or scenes for other stories while working on the current one, I’ve just scribbled them down on a notepad. Which, as I’m sure you can guess, leaves me with a bunch of notes in no particular order or function really.

  6. I love this idea! Especially the part about using each card as a prompt for daily (or freetime) writing.

    This is a stupid question, but how do you keep them together? I’m guessing a quart/liter zip-loc bag would work just fine. In Japan, they sell smaller cards that have a hole punched in the side, and you can put them on a ring that opens quite easily (that way they can be re-arranged and replaced and added to as needed).

    I also think index cards do double duty, in that you can put them on a white board with magnets, or spread them out on a table, bed or even the ground to get a “plot map.” It sounds like a very good plan for adding an extra dimension to thinking about story.

    I want to hear how it all works, especially the “take one card out of my purse” thing.

    • I have the cards in a little plastic box that I can toss in my tote bag so that nothing gets out of order or dog eared. The 50 scene cards with dividers and some spare cards in each character’s color are in it. The spares are for when I’m not sure where the scene idea belongs, if it’s just dialogue, if it’s just whatever is banging on my brain, etc. This is really just an idea keeper for my next story. Sort of what Darla talked about, but the scribbles are in one place and slightly more organized.

  7. Wow, Michille, I am so impressed! This seems like a great way to keep track of ideas while you’re working on something else–and then you’ll be halfway done to a plot for the next one, as well. Good going!

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