September 27th, 2004
Plotting Part 2

I’m rather mad that I created a long response in my feedback section only to have the computer eat it. Grr… So I’m going to post my response here.

One of the best plotting books I’ve ever come across is Donald Maass’s ‘How to Write the Breakout Novel’ and it’s companion workbook. It walks you through writing a book start to finish. By the time you complete the workbook, you’ll have enough info to write an indepth outline for your story with layers and layers of plot. If you ever get a chance to attend a workshop by this man–go! ‘The Plot Thickens’ by Noah Lukeman is good for coming up with ideas for your story. ‘Goal, Motivation, and Conflict’ by Deb Dixon is supposed to be really good. I plan to pick it up after the holidays.

At the RWA National Conference this year Emily McKay and Robyn Ratliff did a workshop on character plotting. I definitely had a few ‘aha’ moments while listening to their cassette. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I was a character plotter. For some reason, knowing that made a difference.

I started out as a ‘seat of the pants’ kind of writer. I find the longer I write the more my style is changing. I think this is a natural progression when you write professionally. My storytelling is deepening, so I need to find other ways, beyond seat of the pants, to keep up with the story threads.

My dh pointed out that most of the questions I have on plotting are geared to screenwriting, not book fiction. With that in mind, I picked up ‘Myth and the Movies’ by Stuart Voytilla this weekend. It breaks down tons of popular movies into the hero’s journey. I’m finding it extremely helpful being able to look at movies in this manner. The hero’s journey is making more sense to me now. The good thing about this book is that it breaks down movies by genre, so you have action, horror, romance, romantic comedy, drama, war, thriller, western, and sci-fi/fantasy. If you’re as much a movie geek as I am, you’ll enjoy the book. I definitely need things spelled out for me, before I’ll understand. Hope this helps.

7 comments to “Plotting Part 2”

  1. Ooh, I’ll have to try out the Donald Maass workbook. I have the regular “book,” but not the workbook.

    I also have Debra Dixon’s GMC, and it’s pretty good. I really need to read it again!

  2. Larissa,

    He’s terrific! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. In November, Donald Maass is doing a workshop in New Mexico. I really wish I could afford to go. It’s for an entire weekend. I can’t imagine how much I’d learn, considering how much I got out of his half day talk.

  3. I like the sound of the Herpo’s journey stuff. I’m a huge movie geek!

    And I second Jordan on the love of Donald Maass. 🙂

  4. You know, the hero’s journey has worked for my scripts–beautifully, in fact. But I just can’t get it to work for my romances for some reason. I must have some sort of plotting mental block. ; )

  5. Thanks Sasha! If you love movies I think you’ll like the Myth and Movies book. I’ve only seen Star Wars broken down in this manner prior to reading this book. It’s like taking baby steps with story structure. Larissa, I’m not sure what to tell you if you can make the hero’s journey work for your scripts, but not your fiction. LOL! I’ve never tried to write a script, so my only experience stems from romantic fiction.

  6. That Maas book opened a can of worms for me! I am so happy that I read it because it helped me to open my eyes and see things more clearly. With plotting, I have realized that I’m a character plotter now. When I first began, I felt the need to write semi-detailed synopses of everything that was going to happen because I was afraid I’d end at road blocks. But then, when I stopped that, I was still trying to do that instead of tailoring my premises to my characters. And I am going to look for those books you recommended immediately!

  7. Sidonie, Donald’s book did the same thing for me. I realized I’m absolutely a character plotter. He opened my eyes to a different way of viewing storytelling. I will be forever grateful to the man.