plotlove or: why it’s good to have a sister around
I *love* the word ‘plot’.
You can do so much with it.
You can plot a murder. You can loose it. You can use one to overthrow an evil dictator. If you’re not careful, you can miss it. You can employ it against someone or something. Best of all, they are messy and you can fling in whatever events, occurrences, mad inspiration or evil twists you want. It’s complete freedom. It’s the stage where you just happily imagine making your characters walk through fire. Or push them into boiling oil, as the amazing Holly Lisle expressed it.
Your main character (MC) needs to leave town, so that her car can break down, and she will be able to meet the guy, who will later ruin her life? Cue: the unexpected arrival of the crazy spinster aunt, who embarrasses her so deeply that she is forced to leave.
You MC is mortally afraid of fish? Make him be the only one around when a child falls into a lake, forcing him to jump in and swim through all the fish to save the golden-haired infant from drowning, and coming out, he’s so empowered that he asks out the child’s mother, who wasn’t irresponsible at all, but instead was distracted from looking after the kid because the detective was asking her uncomfortable questions about the murder. Oh! OH! You could have the guy stub his toe on the murder weapon as he comes wading out of the fish-infested lake, glistening heroically in the sun. Or rather, dripping and blinking out from under the algae that cover him. And while the mother tearfully embraces the child and its rescuer, the detective realizes that it could of course only have been your main character, who found this ingenious way of suddenly ‘finding’ the murder weapon. Hm. Not sure I like where this is going…
Apart from my insane imagination going on the rampage here, the point is: plotting is FUN! It’s figuring out how to get from introducing your MC (or MCs) to having them either happily married to each other, or dead, or broken but wiser, or saving the world, or the murder, or … whatever ending fits in with the genre your write in.
This is what my plotting session last night looked like:
Me – lying in the middle of the living room floor.
My sister – lounging on the couch.
The floor – covered in my notebook, several pieces of paper with mind-maps, post-its, a pair of scissors, coloured pens, coloured paper, my computer for quick research, my sister’s computer for the music (the sound is better on hers!), several books to see how real authors do it, several used mugs half-full with tea, two half-eaten bowls of soup.
… and this bit of conversation is representative of about four hours of work:
Me: … but how does he [= the evil antagonist] try to force them [= my MC and her friends] to give up the shop?
Sis: Well, he could… well…. okay, he could spread evil rumours about them.
Me: Like what?
Sis: Like … *concentrated silence*
Me: Oh! Maybe he pretends to be a customer and says things like ‘I’ve seen this book a lot cheaper at this other bookshop!’ to customers? OOOOOOR, he could spread the rumour that the shop is infested with rats! Ha! That’s good, isn’t it?
Sis: Maybe. Maybe. Or he could kidnap N [= on of the side characters].
Me: I’m not sure he would do that.
Sis: Maybe not. But I think he should. It would be cool. Then the MC can rescue her.
Me: Okay, okay, let’s see. Maybe. I’ll keep it in mind. Back to the rumours. He could also pretend to be a building inspector and…
Sis: … and gain N’s trust and then kidnap her?!? *hopeful look*
Me: *banging my head slowly on the floor*