Writers talk about their characters being disobedient all the time. It’s like some kind of cosmic joke, we spend weeks planning, checking, re-checking. We dust our shirt collar in a smug, ‘I’ve defeated my story outline’ pose, only to get 30,000 words or so into our novel and the little
darlings bastards have pitched a killer twist that’s so far out of left field even book-God himself wouldn’t have seen it coming.
I’m telling you.
Those little story critters know exactly what their doing. Lulling us into a false sense of security and then when we’re balls deep into the flabby middle, they slap us upside the head with something so good, we can’t ignore it. Tyrants. Heathens. Thou cullionly idle-headed hedge-pigs!
And so, the plot is messed up, the timeline fudged and your brain a crockpot of drafts, twists, confused dialogue and stroppy characters.
What to do?
Here’s a quick tip to help you beat those little darlings back into shape.
The reason why most of us get confused when a left field twist appears at an inconvenient time, is because the timeline is inevitably bumfuckled. Subplots need pulling out, crunching up, shredding and peppering back into the right place. But if your plot is even remotely complicated that is no easy task. After all, it’s why you wrote an outline from the start.
So. Here’s my quick tip:
- Obscenely large paper (or normal bits stuck together)
- Post its (in a variety of colours), or if you don’t own post its (WHY NOT, YOU STATIONERY HEATHENS?) coloured pens for differentiation purposes.
- Your brain (if an introverted thinker)
- Or if an extroverted thinker – another person if you have one available. If not, try kidnapping, bribery or blackmail.
Take each chapter in chronological order, and talk (or think) through every point that happens in that chapter, then write it down. Go in chronological order, from start to finish.
On your bits of paper, use each column (vertically) to represent your chapter. Each key point from a subplot should be colour coded:
This is so you can:
a) see how your subplots move through the story
b) whether or not you have a gap
c) and if they’re rounded off nicely.
Keep going until you hit the final chapter. Once there, review each coloured subplot for the above points. Then review your entire story, notes, text or info you’re holding in your head to look for gaps – you would be amazed how easy it is to leave things unfinished.
There we have it. One super quick tip to untangle plot problems.
What methods do you guys use to work out your plot issues?
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