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.
- Starting with your lead, fill in the boxes. What happens at every stage of the story?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.