How I Write #2 – Plotting a Book

Liberation’s Vow is going to be my NaNoWriMo book this year (look me up, I’m wendylynnclark) and now that I’ve added a little munchkin to my lovely menagerie, time-management will be more crucial than ever to win the month-long novel-writing challenge. I will need to hit the keyboard every day with fingers flying to stomp out the 50,000 word count, which means knowing each scene’s purpose before I start.I’m plotting with all my tools – Save The Cat plot cards, Heroine/Hero Archetypes, free-writing, asking my husband if I can get away with calling insect-sized robots “nanobots” (answer: “No, those are insect-sized robots. Nanobots are the size of nanos”), and lots of running (see previous post).

There are many methods to plotting a book. If you write stories, you may have come across the 3-act plot (classic), the snowflake method, the W plot, the upside-down W plot (why isn’t it called the “M” plot?), storyboarding, romance arc, or one of these other 25 methods of structuring your novel. Currently I’m a huge fan of the 3-act method espoused by late screenwriter Blake Snyder in his book, Save the Cat.

Movies have to be compressed into bite-sized scenes or risk blowing up like Waterworld or Titanic. (Ocean scenes are expensive I guess.) What I like about Blake Snyder is he breaks a movie down into beats. You have your catalyst, your theme stated, your B-story, your grand finale, and your opening and closing images. He reminds you to have big set-piece moments and also to have a fun-and-games section. In novel writing, I find it helpful to think about what these big set pieces should be – it helps me to see if I’ve got a boring section because I’m missing an explosion. (Always add an explosion!)

The fun and games is critical. It’s the reason someone picks up a book – it’s what they’re hoping to read to. In Taming of the Shrew, it’s the part where Richard Burton is chasing Elizabeth Taylor around a barn loft complimenting her “dulcet tones” while she’s screaming at him. (Fun!) In Murder, She Wrote it’s when Jessica Fletcher starts investigating and uncovering all sorts of hidden secrets while the murderer keeps her on her toes. In Jupiter Ascending, it’s when the bad guys attack and our heroine clings to the back of hot Channing Tatum while they fly around the city trying not to die. In Jurassic World, it’s when the dinosaurs get out and start eating people.

(Come on. You know that’s why you went to go see the movie! If the dinos don’t get out, and it’s a philosophical movie about extinct animal rights while people stare at the glass…and while fine, well, that’s a different kind of movie, and you’re not fulfilling the premise of Jurassic World.)

How about you? What are some fun-and-games moments in your favorite movies?

Posted in how-I-write, writing life