I’m no evil genius

Plotting doesn’t come to me naturally. I think it does for some writers (or so I hear). From the very beginning of drafting a story or novel, they know exactly what’s going to happen. They connect the dots, and voila! (I know it’s not that easy, but please just grant me for a moment my naïveté about other people’s writing processes.)

It hasn’t been that way for me. At the start, I knew that a particular historical event and historical figure (fictionalized) would be central to my novel. So that gave me setting – historical, geographical and vocational. I had several characters in mind, and I knew generally at what times in their lives the story would happen. I also knew a lot about my themes, although my understanding of them and of my characters has matured along with the novel.

But plot. Huh. I knew I sort of needed one, even if the novel wasn’t going to be plot-driven. At least a road-map for readers, a little momentum to keep them going.

I’ve recently written here about a scene that has finally come together. The scene centers on the disappearance of one of my characters. At first, she simply disappeared into thin air. Really. That’s what happened. No one knew where she was, most especially me. She never came back.

For a long time, I justified that plot point to myself: In my book, in my world, anything can happen. A character can just vanish into thin air. For no reason.

But as I’ve rewritten and revised other parts of the book, things slowly fell into place. Now her disappearance is explained and fits into an actual plot. (Not totally explained. As of now, readers don’t see the character’s disappearance from her point of view, and so there are still questions about what happened.)

I imagine that when I’m writing my next novel, plotting will be somewhat easier for me. But I’m also coming to terms with the fact that I’m not a linear writer. It’s sort of like – Lego building. Grown-ups and older children generally decide what to build and then start at the bottom, adding a brick or layer of bricks on top, and so on, and so on. But I’ve noticed that my toddler adds bricks underneath, to the side, all around. His structures end up being more organic and less building-y than the ones I build.

In writing, I think, I’ve kept my toddlerness. I move things around, add layers here there and wherever, and slowly the whole picture is coming into view.

I’m not saying this approach is better or harder or more rewarding than writing to the plot, or that it could result in a better novel. It’s just my way.

What are you plotting these days?


One thought on “I’m no evil genius

  1. Kathleen

    In college, one teacher told me that plot is taking a character to whom one can’t imagine some particular thing happening, and then making it happen to them. So say you have a really successful character and you can’t imagine them not having their job – you have their boss fire them.

    My experience is that plot grows from character and layers in the way you described. Mr. Trask outlines his plots heavily. Interesting differences…


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