August 19, 2021 - Back to Plotting

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Although I didn’t post to my blog yesterday, I did get quite a lot done. This was thanks, in large part, to an Idea to Plot video with Chuck Manley on Keystroke Medium. He, Kalene Williams, and Lauren Moore showed how to brainstorm a plot in about an hour.

The secret to doing this is to stick to basic plot points. Don’t try to go too deep. The women kept doing this, or as they said, they kept getting lost in the weeds. When coming up with the main character, they started with a basic idea: a female senior in high school who discovers she’s got magical powers. Right from the get-go, the women started going off the track by discussing things like what color her eyes are and whether she’s on the cheerleading team. (No, I don’t think these were the exact things they drifted off into, but the premise they started with was an awful lot like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. More on that in a bit.) Chuck would have to reign them in and said that at this point, whether she’s a cheerleader or not isn’t important.

What Chuck was looking for were the broad strokes of the plot until they got to the end. He said you filled in the details on the next pass.

Now, this reminded me an awful lot of my own spending hours searching for pictures of the desert the other day. Or coming up with the fact that one suspect in my murder mystery has six children, two boys and four girls, even though they never make an appearance. Focusing on those little bits was keeping me from deciding what big thing happens next. It would take me weeks to get to the last plot beat.

So, back to Buffy. Right from the start, my initial reaction was that this plot they were coming up with wasn’t very original. I mean, the idea of a chosen one who has powers they’re unaware of, is mentored by the wise man, and trains to defeat the Big Bad Guy has been used thousands of times. It’s not only Buffy, it’s Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I was tempted to stop watching the video, but desperate to develop my own plot, I stuck with it.

And what happened was that as they got further into the plot, the more they brainstormed, the more it developed into something, if not totally unique, was different enough to make an intriguing story.

For the past two days, I’ve been trying to focus on the bare bones plot points of my mystery rather than the picky details of whether the ranch house faces east or north. It’s enabled me to make more progress in two days than I have in the last month. I’m almost done with that first plot pass now, and if I keep forging ahead, I just might be able to start writing this novel next Monday.

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