Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Brainstorming a Plot

by Sue Viders

How does one brainstorm a plot?

In fact, how does one brainstorm anything?

No matter what you are going to brainstorm, you need a starting point.

An idea. A thought. Or in my case a suggestion from my writing partner like “Sue, why don’t you write about how to brainstorm about getting your plot going.”

Great. A good starting point. A blog about brainstorming plotting. I can do that.
Let’s first understand what brainstorming means and how it works.

                        1 - Basically it is a fun way to get a lot of different ideas about your idea.

                        2 - There should never be any negative comments about the ideas,

                             all suggestions should be welcomed no matter how silly or how wild.

                        3 - And the wilder the better. Enjoy thinking outside of the damn box.

                        4 - Don’t be afraid to combine ideas.

Okay, let’s go. Let’s brainstorm about how to plot your story.

Step One - Where to start?

  First dec ision to make before any brainstorming starts is to decide what the genre of the plot is going to be? This only you can decide. Because if it is a romance, the plot will be slightly different that if it is, say a paranormal sci-fi tale, a suspenseful thriller or even a cozy mystery.

  So the writer has to make this choice, whether it is made by the choice of the main character or by the situation or problem that needs to be resolved, it has to be made.

Step Two - A bit of research is needed

  I like google. No, it’s more than that. I love google. I google everything. Why? Because it usually gives me a starting point for my brainstorming. So once I have decided on the genre I can google, let’s say, romance plots.

  Jack-pot. I can click on anyone of the following which will get my gray cells percolating...

  romance plots from the classics, the TV or from the movies

  common or even strange romance plots, etc...etc...

Step Three - Talk it over with a writing friend.

  I also love this part. Talk it over with a friend. One of my writing friends and I have a working breakfast every Friday morning and work over both our plots, she does the romance bit and I do the cozy murder/mystery plot.

  With two heads I have found ideas are more forthcoming.

Step Four - Do a Story Board

  I also love story boards. Whether you choice to do a formal, fill in the blanks, story board or an informal one, put sticky notes up on you office wall, (I prefer this way) a story board, which is a visual outline of your plot, is wonderful because, you can either use your eraser or you can move the sticky notes around as the plot evolves and changes.

  Oh yes, it will change. Trust me on this one. Plots always change. And the more you brainstorm... grin... the more they change. Almost always for the better.

Step Five - Sit down and write the damn story.

And there you have it.  Try it out yourself and see if it doesn’t help.

P.S. I’m meeting with my writing partner tomorrow to do some brainstorming on her latest idea. Can hardly wait.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Characters can Make Your Plot Move

by Becky Martinez

This week Sue Viders and I are looking at ideas for how to deal with a plot that comes to a complete stand still and won’t go anywhere.  She provided some wonderful ideas for what you might try. (look below for that column) I have another thought.
Look at your characters.

Those pesky critters can bring everything to a stop just by refusing to cooperate. So in addition to looking at your plot or taking time to re-plot things, I say, study your characters.
How well do you know them?
Have you taken enough time to really figure out what they want?
Have you studied their motives?
Have you checked their personalities to see if they mesh with what you want them to do?
What about their background? Their family? Could that be holding them (and you) back?

More often than not, when I run into major problems with my plot it is because I have not taken enough time to really drill down deep into the inner core of those characters. I’m one of those writers who spends a little time plotting and I usually know how my story ends, but everything in the middle is kind of a mishmash.
It’s not that I don’t want to outline or compose storyboards and complicated plotting forms. And yes, I can make a detailed outline or even write a synopsis in advance. But when it comes to writing that story, before long, I find myself going off in some new direction and before long the story board is left behind.

If I really get to know my characters before we begin our story journey, they will take me and whatever plot I come up with exactly where I need to go. They make up the story as we go along. If I haven’t taken the time to get to know them, though, they are stubborn. They are going to stop doing things I want them to do, or things just grind to a halt.
If I’ve taken the time to know their goal at the beginning of the story, even if it varies a little along the way, more often than not, they stay true to the course. No matter what I throw at them, they continue in the same direction and they keep on fighting or working to reach that goal.

It’s the same if  I’ve taken the time to know what’s inside them, and what their emotional needs and motivations are. Then they can tackle any obstacles that come their way. Even if they don’t succeed at first, they will keep trying.
One of the reasons I wanted to look at how to jump start is stalled story is because not too long ago I ran into that problem. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get my story to go again. I had my plot laid out and it should have not been a problem. But the scenes seemed stale and the characters just didn’t seem to come alive.

At that point I went back and went through my original notes about my characters. I realized I had veered away from who I thought they were. I had them going in directions that character would never go.
I went back and spent some time just hanging out with my characters. I read through all my notes and then filled out a complete profile sheet to learn as much as possible about that character. At the end, I felt like that character could sit right down next to me and I would recognize him. I had taken extra time doing that with my heroine before I started writing the book but I just hadn’t taken enough time with my hero.

Next I sat down and read through the scenes where he was prominent and I could see where I had gone wrong. I was trying to force him in directions he would never go. Not that character.
Now I’m prepared to pick up the plot again and this time I think it should flow. I’m excited to be writing the story again.

Yes, I love to torture my characters and I love to throw roadblocks at them. You should too. But if you don’t know how they’re going to react, you may run into a problem. So, if you run into a stalled plot, don’t just look at the plotting elements.
Take a good look at your characters. Spend a little time with them. Get to know them better or get to know them all over again. It can get you back in the writing mood.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When A Plot Stalls

by Sue Viders

There is plotting and then there is PLOTTING.

Which one works for you depends on two factors, your story concept or idea and your personality for pre-writing set-ups.

But no matter if you’re a highly organized plotter or more of a “let-the-character-set-the-pace” person, everyone, published or not, at one time or another, hits the damn wall.

There is no escape unless you are using an established plot or perhaps some type of software that has all the variables programed into the outline. Any of the James Bond movies use the same plot, over and over, the main change being the personality of the actor playing Bond and how he reacts to the various plot elements such as the red herrings, the MacGuffin clues and the fascinating death traps James always finds himself involved in.

Most plots stall because of three very basic factors:

   There is no believable backstory of the action elem ents
   You, the writer, have no idea how the story is going to end
   And most importantly you, the writer, have no idea how the main character is going to change

I’d like to add a fourth which is my favorite--no pre-planning and pre-plotting has been done.

As a teacher of plotting I strongly advocate doing your homework in the sense that all most all of your plotting problems can be solved if you will only take the time to pre-plan the story BEFORE you begin writing. A story board of the action with all the plot points is a great place to start. Use a wall, and lots of sticky notes. The time it takes to do this is well worthwhile because if you have a completed story board, you most likely won’t get stuck to begin with.

But be that as it may, you are stuck. What to do?

Try singing the following song.

                                    “I love coffee, I love tea
                                    I love the Java Jive and it loves me
                                    Coffee and tea and the java and me
                                    A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (Boy!)”

Caffeine in any form will help. Grin.
However there are other things you can do to un-stick your plot besides filling your body with caffeine. I’ve listed a few that I use.

   Most importantly and one I always do is to put the damn plot away and do something else.

   For me, I like to start or work on a totally different type of creative project which could be anything from

   some art work
   any kind of craft
   sew a doll dress for my grand daughter
   knit or crochet a cowl for my mother-in-law who hates to be cold
   divide my plants that have gotten too big for their pots
   cook up a new veggie soup for husband
   and if desperate, do some paper work such as paying the electric bill

 Another idea is to do these things in a totally different environment.
   move to another room where there is no computer
   visit the library
   get coffee at the bookstore
   Exercise. Doesn’t have to be a tennis or golf tournament. Walk to the mailbox. Walk to the park. If you live close enough, walk to the store. Get outside. Move your body.
   Share your problem with a writing friend
       About once a month I have breakfast with a writing friend who writes absolutely wonderful characters but always, even after nine books, get stuck with the plotting. We chat about it and eventually come up with some great solutions

If you have to write, start another project, preferably in another genre... something that is totally different from this “stuck” project

And if you simply can’t leave the story alone, sit down and plot out the ending and the resolution or conclusion. Somehow when you know what is going to happen you will have the idea of what NEEDS to happen in the plot in order for the ending to happen

Bottom line - getting your brain off your story and into another project will help. Try it. Give yourself a week or two and then go back and do the story board. It will fall in place. And as that older guy says about his men’s clothing store... “I guarantee it.”



Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...