Monday, March 29, 2010

The Plot Thickens...

Reminder: if you have been collecting followers to win a critique (see details here), tonight is the last night to email us your list. Be sure to have it to us by midnight Pacific time tonight.

It's been a sad, long while since I've gotten to write.

I finished my most recent novel in October, and since then, life has been speeding up. Seriously. Whoever has the remote for the DVR of my life needs to let up on the freaking fast-forward button already. (I hyperbole, I hyperbole).

So it is that while I query said last novel (lazily), I have been itching to write a new idea but simply haven't found the time. I tend to write all at once, as writing in pieces stymies me. But there's more reason than that-- I simply love the process of writing all at once. It's like a big puzzle to work out where all the pieces go, and discard and collect the right ones at the right times.

I see my plot first in my head as a general idea. (This is also where I try to write my query, as it's easier to expand a one-sentence idea than it is to condense a 300-page one). Then my main character floats in. There's usually something about them that pre-disposes them to the story-- i.e., plot point A will be more realistic if MC is in their 30's, or female, or a banker. The rest comes as the story unfolds in my head. As I learn more about the story, I learn more about my MC.

Then ancillary characters come in. These are sourced from a need in the plot-- basically, I need X to happen and a Y character to help it there. For example, in my new idea, my MC needs a fated love-- so he gets a wife. This may seem beyond simple (and it is the most simple of examples), but it's endlessly fascinating to me.

Why? Because for some reason, in the end, it all works out. Granted, I heavily manipulate it to get there, but I love the feeling I get when I've set something up all along and only come to realize why when my character does. It's like reading the book as I write it. Of course, it's not always that easy-- my wonderful fiance can attest to the hours of "storyboarding" he does with me, where I basically rattle ideas off and have conversations with myself while he agrees or disagrees.

This is why I write. To put the pieces of story together, to make them shiny and new, and love them, and tell them, and package them off to be read.

Lately, I've only been able to think about my new project. I was able to write the first 15 pages a while ago, before life got turbocharged. But even so, I feel the pieces sliding together as it mulls in the background. I feel the weight of the story calling me, pushing me towards the keyboard when I should be sleeping, or blogging. I feel a big thirst to solve the puzzle. I think I will, if life will allow it, very soon. But in the meantime, I'll let the plot simmer and thicken. (Ha! I can never resist a pun. It is, perhaps, my fatal flaw?)

So tell me-- how does plot come to you?


Joshua McCune said...

Usually I have a nice sketch (of the etch variety) of everything, but the writing process is a lot slower now for me and the pieces change/mingle/grow/contract... It can all be quite frustrating, but, like you astutely intimate, when it all comes together, it gives me a nice, warm, tingly feeling.

Matthew Delman said...

Plot comes in fits and starts. When I really sit down and figure out the characters' motivations, histories, etc though -- that's when things start to solidify.

Before that point, plot is kind of an amorphous thing that keeps moving along at its own (annoying) pace.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I get my inspiration from history- character first. Then the plot comes in, followed by the secondary characters. I just had a new character blindside me the other day. It was a pleasant surprise!

Unknown said...

I listen to what I call the "story pull". It's a slow process and never the same for more than one story. I start with the idea which could be a vague concept or a character or even a vivid scene with no context and just start writing. I listen to the story. When it feels right its right and when it doesn't I scrap it. Sometimes I write several pages in a day and sometimes I'll go weeks without touching it. I try to consider things like plot and motivation but its more like analyzing something that's already there. I trust the story and follow it wherever it wants to take me.

dolorah said...

I think mine usually start with a character. I get story ideas with the end in mind, then a character develops, and based on the character and required end, plot. I'm pretty slow about the plot however. I write in fits and starts.

It sounds to me like you are "writing" your story a little at a time also; you're just not putting it to paper until all the details fall mostly into place.

I hold concepts like that in my head also, just waiting for an opportunity to sit at my computer for a long stretch of time. Until I can, I obsess over the new stuff.

You're obsessing; in kinder terms, working it out creatively within your mind as you sift through endless possibilities and narrow them down to just a few workable concepts.

See, writing your new story.


Susan R. Mills said...

I've always said that, for me, writing is like reading. The plot unfolds as I write. It's a fun way to go, but I've come face to face with the drawbacks of the approach as well. And, you are getting married! Who wouldn't get distracted from the whole business of writing.

L. T. Host said...

Thank you everyone for sharing your processes with me-- it's cool to get inside your heads :)

Not like, creepy like that. Just cool.