Recently the YA Rebels (whose vlogs I highly recommend for helpful hilarity) have been vlogging about plot and structure. I've enjoyed their videos, but no one's really touched on anything LIKE the method I use (and one of my favourite rebels, Leah Clifford, even stunned me by asking 'What is structure?').
It seems I am an unusually structure-focused writer. Not that I always called it that. For a long time I just talked about the 'shape' of a story. That's still how stories feel to me; like something solid, which has a shape, with bulgy bits and thin bits, that I need to sort of pat and squash into place. I can remember struggling with a scene for days, and then adding two or three lines to the beginning which changed the 'shape' of it for me, so that I was able to move forward.
While I was in the middle of writing Shadows on the Moon I read Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. I wasn't convinced by all of it, but one thing that did strike me was the way that Mr Vogler illustrated the three act structure. He used a diamond shape, which actually looks more like a four act structure to me. Not that I cared about 'acts'. What I cared about was the fact that I could see how my own story fitted onto that diagram.
There were, of course, four points on the diamond. Each point had a major event on it. The sides were filled in by the smaller events leading to each major event. I realised I could adapt the diamond shaped diagram to keep track of time elasping in my story world, how old my heroine was at each event, and to make sure that the pacing of the story was even, with a certain amount of smaller events building in momentum until a major event erupted, and then the drama flowed back down to smaller events again.
These plot diagrams aren't set in stone for me. For Shadows I think I drew out three our four of them. Working on FrostFire, I think I've already hit three. But this process of evolution itself is helpful.
I was going to take a picture of the last plot diagram for Shadows, but then I realised it was (as you would expect) basically the most spoilerific thing EVER. So I made up a plot diagram, which doesn't make that much sense, but which gives you an idea how I use one of these.
My real plot diagrams show a lot more detail. I draw them by hand, and use highlighters and lots of different coloured pens, and put arrows pointing from one event to another to show how they relate, as well as notes on how old the protagonist and other main characters are at each event and anything else significant (for example, if the location has changed).
I've never been able to use the index card method. I love the idea of having different cards that signify a certain subplot, but for me each event is such a tangle of different developing plots that I can't separate them out. And, as most writers would agree, synopses, while good for giving people a general idea how your story plays out, don't help much at all. But if you, like me, tend to have trouble with pacing and structure, the Diamond Plot Diagram might be for you.
Anyone else want to chip in here? How do you plot?