Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Plot, what plot?

Plotting really isn’t very high on my skill list. Isn’t that a terrible thing to admit as writer? But, it is true. I struggle with plots endlessly and that’s the reason an outline is a must for me. (I’m very bad at planning almost anything else in my life and tend towards the spontaneous, but if I don’t outline, I don’t finish a story.)

What is a story without a plot? Well, probably not much of anything, but plot isn’t what comes to me when I dream up a new story. First shadows of characters show up and eventually meet each other and start talking. (Yes dialogue is one of the first things that comes to me and is one of the few things I’m confident about when I read over my work) As the characters develop I start figuring out their world, which is one of my favorite things. (My roots as a reader and early writings are high fantasy, so even now world building is a special joy. I do less of it in urban fantasy, but I still slip it in as much as possible.) Once I have my characters and my world, I need to figure out what they are going to do.
That sounds simple, but it is the part of the process that makes me want to set my hair on fire. (Thank you miss snark for that wonderful expression)

My characters have personal motivations and small plans for what they want to do: Ch A wants everyone to leave her alone so she doesn’t have to face her past or responsibilities, Ch B wants Ch A to come home…yadda yadda yadda. Nothing big, all encompassing, or with enough momentum to move a whole story forward. The mcguffin, the quest, the mystery, whatever is moving the story, is painfully extracted from the depths of my brain and sewn into the threads of possibility. Some days I feel like plot is something I force on my characters just so they have something to do while they work out those smaller subplots centering on their personal motivations.

Does anyone else feel that way about their work? How do stories form for you? Is plot something that easily forms, or do you fight with it?

1 comment:

Rachel Vincent said...

Actually, my own process sounds similar to yours. I'm never gifted by my muse with fully-formed plots. She gives me characters, and I have to make up things for them to do.

Plotting is very hard work for me. Compared to that, the actual composition is usually pretty easy.

Dialogue usually comes very quickly for me, sometimes flowing faster than I can type it. It's not perfect when it comes out, of course. I always have to go back and tweak it to make sure it says what I want it too (instead of just what the characters want it to) and that it sounds natural and true to each character.

Fight scenes and sex scenes come excruciatingly slowly for me, with much analysing of whose hands are where, and which direction everyone's facing. ;-)

But plotting is the real work for me. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one.