It’s Okay to Dream: Crafting an Original Plot

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photo by Dominic's pics via Flickr

In a similar vein to Monday’s post I’m going talk about another one of the many tips James Scott Bell has in his book PLOT & STRUCTURE. (Really a great book. You should get it. No, I don’t work for his marketing team. Why do you ask?)

Anyways, his suggestion was about how to come up with original ideas. He said that when you come to an important part in your book (a twist, a life-changing event for the character, or the end) you should let your mind wander and jot down ten ideas about what could happen. The next day you go back to the ideas and think about two or three of the ones that appeal most to you. This way you can have a more original plot instead of one with the scenes unfolding the very first way you imagined them (and also probably the very first way most other people will imagine them). And as he pointed out, you don’t have to end up using them, but it will help you to look at your plot in a different light or it might give you an idea for some other part of the plot.

Now, I was pretty hesitant when I read this at first—I’m a plotter with PowerPoint slides to keep everything just right. Abandon my pre-planned plot from six months ago? Never. Impossible! I mean, I’ve thought about it so many times that I can’t even imagine anything going differently. But no matter how brilliant your plot is, it’s always helpful to take another look at it—maybe a plot hole will pop up, or you will really be validated in your brilliance. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m going to. Soon. I just came up with a shiny new outline for a book yesterday (sort of yesterday, I’ve been thinking about it for a few months) and I can’t wait to experiment!

What about you? Do you think of different possibilities for scenes or just go with the first thing that comes to mind? Do you find it hard to change a scene that you’ve had planned out for a long time?


M Pax said...

sometimes I know what I want to do. Sometimes I consider it 'throwing clay on the wheel'. I come back and reshape until I'm happy. Sometimes I have to write long, rambling emails to a friend.

Abby Annis said...

A lot of times, especially if it's a key scene, I'll end up rewriting it several times before I hit on the twist or turn that feels right. This is a great tip! Much faster than writing and rewriting until you get it right. ;)

Thanks for sharing!

Madeline said...

Wow. You read my mind. I was just going to write a post about this...

Heh heh, anywho, I do agree. If it's the first thing you thought of, it's the first thing your reader will expect. ;)

Tere Kirkland said...

The way I plot, it's all about the possibilities!

I sometimes rule out the first thing I think of immediately, but I keep asking myself questions about the motivations of the characters, and what makes sense to happen next... I might even OVER-plot things because of this.

Great post!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I usually go for a run and all kinds of ideas hit me that might not have visited while I was staring at the computer screen.

With my current wip, I started outlining it then stopped mid way to finish editing another project that I was dying to get back to. That was the best thing that could have happened. When I finally got back to the outline (a month later), it ended up going in a different direction to what I had originally planned. And now, imo, it's much better. :D

Lindz said...

Hello there! I just stumbled upon your blog, and I'm really diggin' it. I'll be back for sure.

I have a couple scenes that I've known had to be a certain thing from the moment I first dreamed them up, but I think overall I've rewritten most. I like being open to new possibilities, and leaving proverbial doors cracked for my characters to use if they so need to.

Christina Lee said...

Wow great advice. Hmmm... I usually go with one tenative idea and as I'm writing my WIP takes on a mind of it's own and goes somewhere else-- such a strange phenomenon!

WritingNut said...

This is a great idea... thanks for the recommendation on the book too!

I usually just go with it as I write... my characters and scenes seem to take on a life of their own. Sometimes it feels like the book is writing itself! :)

Susan R. Mills said...

I have a plot line in my current WiP that I always envisioned being a part of the story, but I don't think it's working. Maybe I need to try this out. I might just come up with something better. Thanks!

Talli Roland said...

I used to just go with the first thing, but now I always stop and ask: is this doing what I need it to do? Is it moving the character forward or back - and in the right way? Is there a better way to do it?

It's exhausting!

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