Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Plot Arcs: How to Use Them in Your Novel

Example of the Basic Arc
Second post in How to Plot Your Novel series. Here we explore a another technique I use, which can help you Pansters Plot your Novels.

Q: How do you plan a plot arc?

 A: Okay! People have been asking me about my methods of tracking plots, and since I'm a panster this is a big topic with me.

   All of you plotters can take your Excell spreadsheets and binders full of detailed notes for each scene and step outside with those now.


 (...Or you can hang around. You know, just for fun, and to laugh up your sleeve at other people's problems.)

  All right! Onward to glory we go!  (Props if you recognize that song...)

 As a major panster, I've had a hard time coming up with a plotting method that actually works with my "all over the place" writing style. I can't tell you how many different ones I've tried, but most of them failed miserably.

Okay, so here it is! The What Works For Me deepest secrets.


  We all know by this point that story arcs basically kind of have a similar shape all the time.

Like, beginning, middle and end.

   Or Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, if you're into that. (Personally, it always really bugs me that Act 2 has three parts, and they still call it a "Three Act Structure". What?! Who did you get to do your counting for you?)

 Or some people get all into the Hero's Journey, and the book that shares that name.


 Myself, I just want to write the story.
   So here's the "Arc Plot" that enables me to do just that.

 Draw a half circle. (All right fine, it's more than half a circle! Just make a big loop out there that covers most of your paper.)
  Divide this arc in half with a little line at the top. Then divide each half in half with another mark.

 You start at the Ordinary, move to Uncomfort Zone, on 'til you reach Confrontation/Greatest Fear. That is your climax, or the midway point of your story.
 (Some tales' climax is longer than others, and so it can slide into the Deepens Problem territory. That's totally okay.)

 Half way between the middle and the end of the book you come to Hits Bottom. This is a great place where you can have fun with making things look really bad for the protagonists and their dearly held dreams.
 Really turn the lights out on this!

  And then... oops! They turn things around! It's not that bad after all, and they all go home and be cozy in their caves.

   They have faced their fears and mastered them, (as well as the Big Bad). This makes them not only safe once more, but they actually have grown and have a bigger comfort zone than they had before.

  So... everybody wins!

Hope it helps, everyone! :-)

 (And while you're at it, you can get really creative and use the brightest, most diverse range of colors! Make one stand for one thing, and so on, that way you're creative muscle can easily see what's going on and get inspired!!! :-)

 Next time we'll get into the details of how to really make this Arc Plotter your own.

2 comments:

Hannah Scheele said...

ARGGH the computer WOULD NOT let me comment on the post about plots you did before, so I am putting my comment about that now. I LOVE that idea! Making the whole thing more VISUAL really clicks with my brain---if I can SEE the story happening, it becomes more realistic. Plus this must really help when plotting action sequences--something I'm terrible at. ;) You're good at action, though, and this may partly explain it!
Now for this blog....I RECOGNIZE THE SONG! That and Impossible Dream are the only things I liked from that movie... ( shakes head) :)
Again, this is VISUAL. Much more helpful, to my way of thinking, than Excel notes--though I do some occasional notes in my notebooks, when I have to. I have now figured out why you do so well with sets...you are a visual, descriptive sort of person!

Fascinating set of posts!

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Sorry to hear your computer was giving you trouble, but glad you can post now! I love hearing what everybody thinks about this stuff!!!

Yes, getting it visual really helps a lot in wrapping my mind around it. And it does help with plotting... just about everything! Especially if there are any elements of mystery, you can easily check with your arc and say, "Oh, they haven't found the secret door yet in this scene." and then just carry right on, re-oriented in the story world.

As always, thanks for stopping by!!!