Sunday, June 10, 2012

The First Step: A Plot


Okay, show of hands of any writers reading this: how many of you have had pages, if not chapters of inspired writing come out as easily as spending money at a mall, only to realize later on that you had no idea where it was all going?  Only to stop and stare at it, wondering why you'd spent all that time on it?  Only to wish that somewhere in all that writing, you'd stumbled upon a plot?

Who amongst us hasn't heard a conversation in our mind's ear . . . two interesting characters speaking?  Or thought what if . . . I put someone in the middle of the desert, and they come to and have to figure out why they're there?  Or overheard a conversation and knew you could write at least ten pages of dialogue from that bouncing-off point?

But it all amounts to nothing if you haven't got a plot.

Such is how a lot of my writing goes.  Sometimes the plot turns up screaming at me to take notes.  And sometimes it runs away and hides.

I do much of my writing in a blank book with a fountain pen.  To me it's great to use a PC for everything else, but often a first draft just comes out better that way, or maybe faster . . . or perhaps I should just be happy that it does.  As a result of this, I have boxes of blank books (I won't even go into the index cards and sticky-notes) in my closet.  There are blank books in my nightstand drawers, in my desk, in my filing cabinet.  And every now and then, I pull one out and see something I wrote . . . however long ago it was. 

Sometimes I find where I'd been trying to work out a plot, writing notes and questions to myself (sometimes I even answered them).  Sometimes I have several story ideas, or character bios, in one book.

But I'll also find a book with the beginning of a story in it.  And I'll look at the first few lines, not really remembering it, so I'll find someplace comfortable and read it, as if for the first time.  As if I weren't the one who had written it.  And I'll get to the end of what I had written and think, "Well?  What happens now?" 

I'd like to think that that's a pretty good sign . . . that if I don't recall writing it, but I want to know what happens, it might actually be interesting; who really knows?

This is what happened to me about two weeks ago. 

But there was no plot attached to this three-year-old story-beginning, no notes, no nothing.  So I finished reading it and then went on to do other things.

A couple of days later, while in the shower, I had an epiphany.  (I get a lot of writing epiphanies in the shower.  They're excellent for that.)  I had also started another story, maybe even older than that one, but this one I couldn't find notes for.  However, I recalled it well enough to realize that it would mesh nicely with this story-beginning.

And more importantly, I actually had a plot!  I scribbled a rough, skeleton of an outline onto the back of an index card, lest I forget.  That card joined the others with possible character names clipped to the first page of the blank book. (I won't go into names here, but I'm sure I'll get to them eventually.) 

Voila!  A basic structure for my novel! 

Well, I've got a main character and a few others.  Basic plot outline: check.  Antagonist?  Yep.  Resolution: accounted for.

That's not a bad start.

Well, at least I hope so.