I used to think of myself as spontaneous, but upon closer inspection I’ve come to realize that there isn’t much about me that’s spontaneous. I weigh options before making a decision, I research a topic before taking a strong stance on either side. I like to plan and think through everything I do. So it’s probably not a surprise that when it comes to writing, I’m a plotter!
Plotting out my book (or outlining) serves many purposes for me:
- It enables me to know my story & characters
- It keeps me from writing myself into corners/walls
- It aids me in creating sub-plots.
Today I’ll deal with the first of those three. It enables me to know my story & characters.
By plotting out my story in advance I’m able to know when to put in plot twists and where to place important details. I know who my villain is so I’m able to place red herrings throughout the book that will point the finger at the other characters, thus misleading my readers (I hope!).
Plotting also gives me a full understanding of the motivations for my characters. In a mystery, someone is going to be murdered. In the real world, a person isn’t going to want to involve themselves in a situation that could potentially put them face to face with a killer without a good reason, amateur sleuth or not. That’s why it’s important to give your heroine/hero believable motivators for getting involved with a crime.
When you’re creating motivators for your main character ask yourself:
- Why does my heroine care about the crime?
- Did she know the victim?
- Is something at stake for her?
By plotting my story in advance I’m able to more effectively take my readers on a journey without having them constantly say to themselves, “I don’t understand why she’s doing this.” or “I don’t believe that.”
The same holds true with the villain. Why did they commit the crime? By plotting the book in advance, I know that years ago the villain was thought to have been killed in an accidental house fire. In fact, he survived the fire and has been hiding out in a cabin in the woods, plotting his revenge on those he sees as responsible for his disfigurement.
By knowing this in advance, I’m able to place clues throughout the book. I’m able to make the selection of victims seem random until I tie all the clues together at the end.
For me, plotting is crucial.
Stay tuned for reason 2…
Pantser or Plotter?