Because I Like to Plot
I previously wrote a blog post titled ‘The Writer’s Dilemma: Outlining versus Pantsing’. I came out as a plotter. I like to see where I am going and plan in advance (perhaps too much) before I start writing. I need to know the ending before I figure out how to get there. As a matter of fact, I will be honest with you reader, most times I know the ending and the beginning of my stories but I have zero ideas how to get there. Hence, I need to brainstorm. And then brainstorm some more. I am not the fastest writer out there, or the most prolific. I do try. I need to try harder.
Today I want to share what works for me. First, it all starts with a general idea. For me, science fiction is about ideas and big events. The idea is followed by a logline (one sentence summary of the plot). For example, character + descriptor + followed by an event. Here is the logline for one of my unpublish stories: Father Duffy who does not trust Japanese people since Pearl Harbor attack is called into a Japanese internment camp to perform an exorcism, with no success.
But a logline is an oversimplification. Let’s break down the plot step by step.
Name a Problem
What is the event, action? What is going to happen? What is the problem/conflict? Why is it a problem to being with? In genre fiction, something must usually happen.
Create a Character Who Has the Problem
Who is the main character? The protagonist? (not always the point of view character) Why the problem matters to this character? What are the stakes? What does it matter? Why should the reader care?
What is the Obstacle? Antagonist?
Who or what opposes the protagonists? What holds him or her back? What would create the tension and conflict. Remember: no conflict, no plot.
Narrate the Attempts to Solve the Problem
You have the character, the problem, the setting and the villain. Now tell the conflict. Let them go at it. Really go at it. Keep raising the stakes. Let the villain win a little, let the hero suffer a lot. Play with your readers’ expectations.
Create a Critical Turning Point
This is what they call the climax, the point of no return. This is the final confrontation between hero and villain. This is it! You show what they both want, what is a stake and what are the willing to sacrifice to get it. Now is time to bring the conflict head on.
Show What Happens Next
In other words, write the resolution. If you are like me, you would go for a happy ending. Or a terrifying, sad, unhappy ending (gulp!). Regardless of your choice, please give your readers a resolution of sorts. There is nothing worse than read through hundred of pages and the story just end. It’s okay to not answer all questions and leave some subplots dangling for future material. But the main conflict needs to be resolved or your readers would be rightfully mad with you.
This is how I usually outline a story. Of course, I am oversimplifying. But it gives me a road map. You may have a different method. Or you may be pantser or some other type of creative genius. Feel free to share what works for you.