The Charlie Day Plot Murder Board: how this panster became a plotter

Image result for charlie day pepe meme

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an author in possession of a WIP must be in want of bitching about said WIP.
me, right now

If there’s one thing all writers have in common, it’s that we love to complain about how hard writing is. For the longest time, my biggest complaint was how frequently I was stuck rewriting entire drafts after figuring out some plot point that shifted the entire book. This was due in part to my inability to plot. I found outlines constricting and thought they sucked the ‘discovery’ part out of my process. Five books in, and I’ve embraced the three-act structure. Here’s how it works for me:

  1. Read this article. I find most posts explaining plotting structures to be dry and vague and utterly unhelpful. This was the first time it *clicked* for me, and largely due to the fact that each scene is explained by aligning the three-act structure with Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. The book follows the structure flawlessly. The part that stuck with me the most was how the “pinch points” were not the major twists I would have assumed, and were often times quieter twists, which helped me in plotting my own books. Not all twists have to be a major action scene or implosion.
  2. Index cards. This is the part where you go full Charlie Day. You will need 27 cards, one for each scene. At the top of each card, I write “Act One: Block One: Chapter One” and so on and so forth until I reach “Act Three: Block Nine: Chapter Twenty-Seven”. I also write a quick note under each title saying “plot twist #1”, “midpoint”, “darkest moment”, etc. as they pertain to each scene, to help me with controlling the flow of rising and falling action. More on that later. For now, arrange your index cards on a table or the floor. I arrange mine with each row being an act, and putting a gap of space between each of the three blocks within each act.
  3. Post-It notesNext, I write down the plot points that I know. Extract all the scenes that have been swimming around in your head and write them on a post-it note. Stick it where you think it falls in the story. Is this the inciting incident? The midpoint? The plot twist? The final battle? Write down everything you know and stick it on your plot cards. Once you have it all down, see where your gaps are. Are you saving too much for the finale? Is the second act a big blank (this is usually my dilemma). Maybe you need to move around some scenes. Perhaps a battle could happen earlier. Or maybe it’s fine and you just need to brainstorm scenes. This is where rising/falling action comes into place. How can you fill that void to ramp up or wind down? Can you see a plot thread that hasn’t been mentioned in a while? Add that in. As a visual learner, being able to see the holes in my plot helps. Sometimes I don’t figure out the answer until I’m literally writing it–and that’s okay! That’s the ‘discovery’ part of writing. It can still exist while plotting. The rules outlines are more like guidelines, anyway.
  4. Plot Inception. Two optional steps, depending on your narrative and writing style.
    • Color Coding. I write multi-POV stories, so I color code my post-it notes with each character’s POV. It allows me to see when a POV has been silent for too long or perhaps I’m shoving too much on them within a certain block of the plot. The colors help me visualize their agency within the plot.
    • Dates. This can be literal dates like April 17th, or simply “Day One”. I like to keep track of how time passes within my stories. Are my characters flying across the realms with heretofore unseen quickness all of a sudden? This helps with travel times if a journey/quest is part of your story, or if your characters are simply accomplishing so much that they would need 72-hour day. (ie. epic fantasies spanning multiple books where only a month has passed? Yeah, sure Jan.) Within the actual words of my story, I try to keep mentions of time vague for continuity purposes, but it’s good information to have for you the writer.
  5. Scrivener. I absolutely swear by writing in Scrivener. If you don’t use it, you can still make it work in Word/whatever you use via the comment function/page breaks/etc, but this will be geared towards Scrivener.

    Under the ‘Manuscript’ in the Scrivener binder on the left side, I make nine blocks, titling them “Act One: Block One” all the way to “Act Three: Block Nine”. Within each block, three folders for each chapter. (You could make these scenes and not folders, but I tend to have multiple scenes per chapter, so this is my method, but YMMV.)

    Then, I add the scenes from each post-it note under the correlating chapter. (If you’re writing multi-POV, you can color code the scenes via the ‘Label’ function on the right-hand side. You can ‘Edit’ the labels to the names of your characters. “View > Use Label Color In > Binder” will color code each scene to correlate with character POV. I like my colors to relate to the post-it colors. Makes it easier when inevitably changes happen.)

    Once you have all your scenes, transcribe the blurb of what happens in each scene to the note card at the top right of the Scrivener screen. (If you’re working in word, you can add this info as a comment to the scene title.) I title each note card with the date, then put bullet points of what needs to happen, any snippets of dialogue I might have floating in my head, and notes to self of things I need to remember that might be happening off-page.

    You end up with something that looks like this:
    Plotting Post

  6. Write. I know. How dare I? But yes, now you have to actually write. You will discover things about your story and you can add more post-it notes or just jot down ideas into the Scrivener note cards, YMMV. But most importantly, just write. First drafts are for telling yourself the story. You won’t get it right the first time so go ahead and forgive yourself for that. And don’t forget to enjoy it. The world needs your stories.

How do you plot your stories? Or are you a panster? Any favorite functions in Scrivener that I’m woefully missing out on?

Cheers,
Erin

currently writing 05.10.18

!CW

Again, this header is a lie. But I wanted to share this week’s #ThursdayAesthetic. The theme was ‘future project’. I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for years, and I’m still not entirely confident that it’s done brewing.

TOUCHED is a wlw romance that’s PLEASANTVILLE x THE GIVER.

The Continent is a hyper-conservative land where physical touch and magic have been banned. Calleigh is a magical land of sexual freedom and expression. The two lands have coexisted for years, but Calleigh fears that The Continent is no longer content to let them be, and will soon attempt to overtake them, squashing out the love and magic that makes Calleigh great. To preserve their way of life, Calleigh spies infiltrate The Continent, but even the best-laid plans can go sideways.

Billie, the daughter of two Calleigh spies, quickly falls in love with Shiloh, the daughter of The Continent’s president. And Shiloh, who has only known the bland, colorless life of The Continent, is completely enamored with Billie and the freedom Calleigh offers. If discovered, their love could spark the tension between their two worlds and be the end of Calleigh. So they must fight, both for themselves and for their countries.

[AES] TA WIP

currently writing 05.10.18

!CW

This header is a lie, I haven’t written anything lately. I was in Spain and Portugal for a week at the end of April and haven’t stopped working since I got back. May is always a crazy month for me-both work-wise and personally. However, I have a free day this weekend and am hoping to get back to work on DB’s sequel now that I got over the hump of rewriting that one scene three times haha.

It’s Thursday, which means #ThursdayAesthetic! I’m a week behind on posting so this was last week’s theme of ‘minor characters’. You hear enough about Alba, so here are my other three POV characters as well as a bonus fave side character:

 

[AES] TA MINOR-CORA

CORA 
-Lord of Tartarus, the Underworld’s prison realm
-Death’s Second in Command
-Demon Twin
-Disaster Gay
If you’re not sure if you’re terrified or turned on—don’t worry, that’s normal.

[AES] TA MINOR-DOM

DOM 
-Death’s Third in Command
-Demon Twin
-Prince of Hell
-God of Nightmares (dressed as a daydream)
Enjoys long walks through Hell, pushing everyone’s buttons, and always having the last word.

[AES] TA MINOR-BANE

BANE
-Emissary to the Realms
-Son of a witch (literally)
-Heir of Chaos
-Always Broody
-Concealing at least four weapons at all times
Hella bossy, lonely af, really needs a hug—and a way out of his blood oath to the gods.

 

 

[AES] TA MINOR-HARLOW

HARLOW 
-Love’s Second in Command
-Heir of Chaos & War
-Favorite Book: 174 Ways To Kill A Man
-Just wants to paint
“That’s why her hair’s so big, it’s full of secrets,” said by someone at some point, probably.

currently writing 04.19.18

!CW

Slowly but surely, DB’s sequel is now at 24,000 words! I had to rewrite a scene three times to finally get the right vibe and pacing, so hopefully, I can pick back up the pace again. The sequel has evolved a lot in this rewrite, and the subplots are much stronger for it, but I’m excited to get back to the core of the action in the coming scenes.

It’s Thursday, which means #ThursdayAesthetic!! aka my favorite writing twitter hashtag. This week’s theme was ‘antagonist’ to juxtapose last week’s theme of ‘protagonist’. I struggled with this one as I didn’t want to give away who my villain was, so I went with a broader theme, that of Alba vs. the gods. So, here’s an aesthetic for the gods, who are far too extravagant and very fond of golden decor, secrets, and getting away with murder.

[AES] TA VILLAIN CHALLENGE

!CW

DB’s sequel is currently at 20,000 words!! I actually had two full days off in a row and I wrote 12,500 words this past weekend, which is insane. I have a feeling this sequel is going to be a lot longer than anticipated, but it’s still the first draft. Either way, I’m excited! Anyways, #ThursdayAesthetic is now officially a *thing* on Twitter. This week’s theme was ‘Protagonist’, so here’s my Alba aesthetic.

[AES] TA MC CHALLENGE

!CW

I just hit 10,000 words on the sequel to Death Becoming! I had about 30,000 words written before deciding to scrap it all and start anew, given all the changes DB underwent in edits. I can’t begin to describe how good it feels to be writing new things again after nearly a year of edits. To celebrate, here’s a moodboard I made for the #ThursdayAesthetic challenge on Twitter.

[AES] CR