Friday, November 21, 2014

How To Plot Your Novel: Into the Arc Theory

Third post in How to Plot Your Novel series. Here we explore an in depth look at the "Arc Theory" technique introduced in the last episode of my very own tips; Plotting For Pansters.

 Q: How do I know where to put my plot points? How do I know what plot points to put there?!!!

A:  Never fear! Stay calm. There is absolutely no reason to panic.
 Even though we're pansters here, and there is that mean, growling word "plotting" hanging around a lot, I'm going to show you that ol' shadow monster is actually the reflection of a puppy dog in front of a bulls-eye lantern.

 (No idea what a bulls-eye lantern is? Here you go. >

Okay, on to the meat of this post.

 So, as I was saying... think about getting your plot-lines figured the same way you approach arranging food on your plate at a buffet. There's no hard and fast rule about the mashed potatoes going in the upper right corner... but you do know that the potatoes had better be between  the creamed corn and the roast with gravy.
 It'll just taste better that way.

 In the same vein,  the exciting dramatic points in your story taste better when dividing up the less sparkly, thoughtful stuff. So keep that in mind when you're spreading your ideas around the arc that you made last time.
This is a real arc I'm in the early stages of using... so I've blurred out specific words! *Spoilers!*

 Boil down your plot points to a spare few words. Two is good. One is even better!
 So, say it's that robber/mystery in Texas from our Road Map post.
 The City would go over here at the left hand corner, 'cause that's where they start from. Pencil in "Meet" next to it. You'll have to figure out how they meet later... or maybe you already have an idea. (Is at a cafe, where they both order lunch? Or when the one fender bends the other at a stop light?)

  Maybe the Shabby Hotel would go at the top of the arc, at the midway point. Cause right after that scene our mis-matched protags break up in disgust with each other after the argument... and then travel their separate ways to each find out a different clue which they will use when their paths cross again, (and they've simmered down enough to forgive each other.)

  So put "Shabby Hotel" up  there, sticking out from the arc. Then scribble "argue - split up" underneath that.

 There you have it! Your climactic middle scene.

 So... then, the "Prison" part would be half-way between the two. This is at the place where the Rule of Arc, (or Story Beats) dictate entering the Uncomfort Zone.
  Well, say one of them has a jailbird past, and going back into the pen as a visitor gives him a bad case of raised heart rate.
That's a definite Uncomfort Zone.
 (Poor character. They're just going to get more Uncomfortable from here on out!)

   (Write that. Write the reaction and the self control it takes to make themselves go back behind those iron gates... a testament to their drive and dedication to solving the case.)

Keep Updating the Arc Plotter

Do you have an end scene in mind? No?

 Not a problem. Do you have any idea how it'll work out?
Yes? Good. Maybe put "Robber Caught" at the other end.

 And when you get the idea; "Oooo! Must write that argument scene at the shortcut!" jot that scene down in it's approximate place. This will remind you what you have so far, and can keep you from writing the same scenes twice.
 (What?! You've never done that? I'm the only one???)

 And if you get a nifty idea, and write a real whip-cracker of a scene, then boil it down to one key word and jot it in on the arc. That way you can easily see your progress at a glance.

 Keep this with you, and whenever you get a really sparkly idea, whip this little plot arc out and jot down the one or two word code that will recall that idea whenever you read it. Then the next time you are at your writing place, just take a gander at this handy little arc sheet, (or big arc sheet, which is better, with more room for jotting.)

 And there you have it!
            Off you go, fingers flying like the wind!

                                      No fears! Just writing!

  Writing... writing...!!!!

  (But seriously... have you ever written a scene, then forgot you'd written it, and then wrote it again, slightly different? And then couldn't decide which scene to keep, because they each had good parts, but totally cannot ever, ever, ever mesh????)

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