How to use a story grid to build a solid plot (infographic included)

Story Building and Plotting by Tina KonstantIf your story is any more complicated than The Three Bears, then you might, at some point, get into plotting.

For years I was a “Pantster”, until I was told (in no uncertain terms by a very talented editor) that although I was getting better at character, dialogue, descriptions, show-not-tell… my plot was crap.

So I did a lot of reading and landed on this method of story building and plot development that, if you’re working on a novel, you might find useful.

How to use it?

First, build your grid (see below): Along the top put all the main elements of your story – use any structure you like – the one in this example I used for the current version of FF. Down the left column, list as many characters as you want to include.

Then…

  1. Starting with your lead, fill in the boxes. What happens at every stage of the story?
  2. Do the same for the other characters. For instance… if your lead is in deep conversation with with authorities about the bad guy, what exactly is the bad guy doing at that moment? Sitting in the wings waiting her turn? Noooooo, I’d hope not. Include each characters’ story line, even if not all of it will be included in the book. It will give you great context.
  3. When all the squares are full, look at the grid and identify which squares need to be included to weave your complete story. When you get down to writing, you’ll probably find that each box is a chapter.
  4. Pull all the words out of each box, bind them together and before you know it, you’ll have yourself a pretty decent plot and a synopsis you can submit to agents.

A side note…

You don’t have to complete the boxes in order. You might already know the main bits of your story and who plays them out. So fill those in first, then fill in the blanks.

When you look at every characters’ complete story you’ll be surprised what you find. There’ll be all sorts of connections and motivations that you might not of have noticed before.

Happy plotting
Tina

P.S. I can’t remember where I first found this idea. If someone knows, please let me know. I’ll add the reference and credit to this blog.

 

Writing Rules!

Writing RulesWhether you’re writing your first novel or your tenth, you still have to deal with writing rules: things the writing world says are so important to the writing process that they have been elevated from “things to be aware of” to “A RULE”.

– Show Don’t Tell
– Avoid Excessive (Or All) Use Of Adverbs
– Don’t Use Passive Voice
– Write What You Know

To mention a few…

These are good and wonderful, and paying attention to them will make you a better writer, but if you tie yourself to rules, you’ll forget the most important and probably the only REAL writing rule there is.

Write What You Love! Write what rocks your socks! Write what wakes you up at night! Write what freaks you out in the dark! Write what makes you want to pee your pants because you’re laughing and crying so hard!!

If you write what thrills you then it goes without saying that you will Show Not Tell, Kill The Adverbs, Annihilate Passive Voice and Write What You Know.

So read advice on rules, regulations and whatever it takes to be a great writer with caution. There are folk out there who will tell you that if you don’t do XYZ you’ll never make it. CRAP, basically. If all we did was follow the rules then we’d all be doing the writing equivalent of paint by numbers and that’s about as interesting as soggy leaves stuck in the sole of a farmer’s wellie boot.

Write with passion and joy and for the hell of it. Get that right and everything else will fall into place.

You need no other reason and no other rule.

Break plates today!
Tina

Write a story you love. Not one you think people will like you for.

Write a story you love - more than anything elseWe do enough in this world with the single purpose of making other people happy. It’s how many folk are raised: don’t say anything to upset anyone; don’t make people uncomfortable; give people what they ask for; step out of your way to be nice so folk will like you. So when you write a story, you have all of that upbringing to battle against which means you will most likely create characters who are nice, following plots that don’t rock too many ships, boats or other sailing vessels and use language easy on the ear. Why?

Because you want people to like you.

Here’s the odd thing. Most folk are so damn sick of “being nice” in the real world that one of the reasons they pick up a book is to delve into a world where people do what they want and get away with it. They don’t wait for the police to deal with a noisy neighbour, they burn their garage down. They don’t have a quiet chat with the parents of kids terrorising the streets, they terrorise the kids and teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.

In the books we love, our favourite characters have the courage of their convictions. They say what’s on their minds even if it means the wrath of an entire nation of believers. The books we love most allow us to experience (just for a moment and deep in our imaginations) what it would be like to act with absolute abandon, to survive and to fight. Doesn’t matter what it’s for. Whether for love or for life. We know when we crack the first page of a book we love that our character will win. One way or another. They will be victorious. 

So, why then, when we sit down to write a story, our own piece of fiction, do we play it safe?

Take a moment to look at book trends. There is always a “first of it’s kind” that makes it HUGE. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, Twilight Saga… Then a few months after these book hit the waves, look at what follows. A thousand copycats. A thousand books written by folk who say “ohhhhhh, people like (fill the blank)” and merrily go and write one just like it. Those books, at best, end up average. They might be expertly written – perhaps even better than the author they’re aspiring to. But it’s still an imitation in a shadow.

So instead of writing what you think people will like, write what YOU LOVE. Write a story whose characters make you want to laugh, cry and climb trees. Write plots that tie you in knots, break your heart, sweat, scream and believe.

Because that’s what people really want.

Break the rules today!
Tina

 

 

What’s out your window?

InspirationJust getting into Twitter and I’m following a guy called Jonathan Gunson at BestSellerLabs.com. He’s got some interesting stuff on how to enjoy Twitter without getting tied in ribbons, bows and knots.

Anyway… In the email transactions between saying hello and downloading a course on Twitter for Authors, he added the following message on writing to the bottom of an email – from a writer friend of his:

“Sit quietly by a window and frame an idea… After a brief time, the pen moves, a word is written, and suddenly, you have the beginnings of something grand.”

So it’s 2014. A grand start to a wonderful year. Our ambitions and resolutions, as writers, invariably turn to what we’re going to deliver this year. What we’re going to finally finish. What we’re going to publish. But it’s so easy to get lost in the business of writing (websites, PR, social media…), that we can easily forget about the writing itself. Instead of looking out of a window and framing an idea, we’re busy looking at the repetitive detail that fills out lives.

So make only one resolution this year. WRITE. Just WRITE. It’s OK if the laundry piles up a little. Write this year and make it count.

Have a wonderful 2014.
Tina.

False Starts!

False starts are OK!How many times have you “started” your novel? This drove me nuts until I accepted that false starts are a good way to measure whether you really are ready to write.

Take this as a possible outcome to your writing endevours… You start your novel after months of thinking and research and you decide to subscribe to the school of thought that “Once you start, you just keep going! No matter what! Write you crazy person! Don’t you dare falter! Get that first draft out! Don’t stop until the end… then go back and edit.”

Been there done that, and editing under those conditions is a bitch.

So, how many false starts are OK? In my humble opinion? As many as you like.

There’s an inner editor we, as writers, all have (I’m going to direct you to “Let me Out! 49 Great Escapes from Writer’s Block” for more about it). It’s the voice in the back of our heads or the feeling in our gut that tells us something isn’t right. To ignore it and keep on going when you feel the overall plot is rubbish, just doesn’t make sense. So start over!

If you’re struggling to get past the first, second or third chapter, then stop, bin what you’ve written, review your characters, plot, the whole damn idea, and fix what needs to be fixed. Then start again.

If you have to do this a dozen times, that’s fine. Just don’t waste time finishing something you know isn’t right.

Happy writing, no matter how many times you start.

TK