Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Plotting for Funsies

My only writing goal for the day was to finally finish the dialogue in this monster talkapalooza scene, and I did it. But I was feeling a little down after three days of painful revelations and angst, so I decided to take a little walk on the wild side and see if I could plot a novel from scratch in twenty minutes.

I've blogged about these storytelling archetype cards before; I first heard about them through Joely, and I've found them useful for adding dimension to character; they help me access a less linear, more subconscious-driven part of my storybrain. But I've never used them to create a story out of nothing.

I began by drawing seven single cards to represent the seven key scenes of the story: opening, first encounter, plot point one, mid-point, plot point two, climax, and closing. I wound up with:

Opening: The Festival
First Encounter: The Poet
Plot Point One: The Knight
Mid-Point: Terminus
Plot Point Two: Alchemist
Climax: Terminus
Closing: Water

How cool is it that I got the same card for the mid-point reversal and the climax??

Next, I looked at the profile of each card and chose one of the plot suggestions by instinct. Now I have:

Opening: The Festival. A Street Fair.
First Encounter: The Poet. Traveling Acting Troupe.
Plot Point One: The Knight. A new friend shows unexpected loyalty.
Mid-Point: Terminus. Drafted for a lost cause.
Plot Point Two: Alchemist. Search revealed to be as important as the goal.
Climax: Terminus. Hunted by an assassin.
Closing: Water. Romance.

I'm thinking the climax and closing plot threads run throughout the book and find their resolution in these two scenes. So now I know I have an assassin antagonist, and a romantic subplot. It seems obvious that the opening and first encounter will be either the same scene or back to back, and that one of my lovers will be a resident of the town where there the street fair is taking place, and the other will be a member of the traveling acting troupe. And then in plot point one, one of them saves the other and they set off on a quest together. That's all I've got so far.

Then I looked at the cards again and chose one of the suggested objects to include in each scene:

Opening: The Festival. A Street Fair. Statue.
First Encounter: The Poet. Traveling Acting Troupe. Spider's web.
Plot Point One: The Knight. A new friend shows unexpected loyalty. Horse.
Mid-Point: Terminus. Drafted for a lost cause. Last will and testament.
Plot Point Two: Alchemist. Search revealed to be as important as the goal. Book.
Climax: Terminus. Hunted by an assassin. Dead leaves.
Closing: Water. Romance. Cup.

Ah-- the street fair is in a town square, at the center of which is a statue. The picture on The Poet card shows a girl looking through a spider's web, so I will have my female main character (FMC) catch her first sight of the male main character (MMC) through a web. In plot point one, the FMC and MMC escape on horseback. The dead leaves of the climax imply the passage of time for the story: a street fair would probably take place in the summer, but by the end of the story it is autumn. And the cup in the closing is a symbolic cup in a wedding ceremony. Happily ever after ahoy!

Now time to learn a little about our FMC, MMC, and antagonist. For these I did the two-card character spreads.

First the FMC:
How the world sees her: The Noble
How she sees herself: The Widow

Hmmm, a noble widow. Until this point I'd assumed the FMC would be the one who was in the acting troupe, but I guess not. She's not only from the town, she's at the top of the town's ladder. And she's been married before? Not necessarily-- the card says it represents great personal loss. I don't think she's a literal widow, but she's lost someone very important to her, and now she's alone. And one of the objects listed for The Widow is a statue! Okay, the statue in the town square is of her father; he was all the family she had, and a respected leader. He's died within the past few years, and she isn't over it yet. Ooh, and she notices a spiderweb on it, and is noting with disapproval that no one cleaned the statue before the fair, when through the strands of the web she first notices MMC. 

But who is he?

How the world sees him: The Architect
How he sees himself: The Engine

Okay, with two cards like that, this guy is not an actor. He builds things-- mechanical things. I'm guessing he's a set designer, and probably makes amazing ahead-of-his-time devices allowing the actors to fly and stuff. The Architect card describes him as "intently peering at his own creation", so I think that's just what he's doing when FMC first sees him: he's working on one of his fantastic machines.

What about the antagonist?

How the world sees him/her: Childhood
How he/she sees him/herelf: The Beast

Yowsa. All right, since this is an assassin, I'm not going with the most obvious interpretation of childhood. The card talks about the ability to play like a child, to lose oneself in imagination, so I think this is an actor in the troupe. Ooooohhhh, lots of potential for conflict there. Who is he (I've chosen a he) to MMC? And now the antagonist can also be present in our opening/first encounter scene. The Beast has interesting possibilities too-- is he cursed somehow?

For the next level of character development, I looked at all the suggested objects for both of each character's cards, and chose the ones that seemed to make the most sense. These will be the symbolic objects for each character:

FMC: red rose
MMC: a machine
Antagonist: a sword

The sword is kind of a duh for an assassin, although I probably need some backstory for it. 

The machine is also kind of a duh-- we see MMC tinkering with it when we first meet him. But if it's going to be his symbolic object, it needs to be small enough for him to take with him on horseback later. And whatever it is, I don't think it's just a piece of set design. It means more to him than that. I'm reading The Golden Compass right now, so I'm thinking of the alethiometer. Maybe he's built something with mystical abilities?

As for the rose, it can't be a literal flower, since it has to last the entire story. So I'm saying it's a brooch in the shape of a rose, set with red stones. But I want it to symbolize power rather than beauty, so it's the symbol of her House, worn for generations by the current head of the family and ruler of the town. It passed to her when her father died.

Now let's find out what motivates these people. For FMC and MMC, I drew two cards for each: one for what they want, the other for what they need.

Want: The Shepherd
Need: The Price

The Shepherd tells me that FMC's goal is to protect her people. Her need is more complicated to interpret-- the card talks about "paying a Karmic debt". But whose debt? Her father's, I bet. Maybe there are things about him she doesn't know, things he's done that have led to someone using an assassin to try to eliminate her House altogether-- things she has to put right. The last will and testament in the mid-point must be dad's, and is sure to contain shocking revelations.

Want: The Void
Need: The Poet

Whoa. Who the hell wants the void?? This guy sees himself as an engine, and his goal is to feel absolutely nothing. He's like a Vulcan, man. Gotta be some effed-up shizz in his backstory. What he needs is meaning, and beauty-- and because The Poet was also the card for the First Encounter with FMC-- love. Duh squared.

For the antagonist, I just did one card for WHY? Why is he an assassin? Why is he trying to kill FMC? I got Fortune's Wheel, which basically tells me that this is his fate. In order to find out what that means I'd have to understand the cultural/religious context for his belief in that fate and obedience to it.

What else do I know?

This seems to be a Fantasy/Alternate History kinda world with a slightly steampunk feel and probably a little mystical magical stuff, and a strong romantic subplot.

So there you go. It literally took me twice as long to type this up as it took me to plot all that. I had a blast doing it, and am feeling energized to fight the TOB fight anew tomorrow. I'm not planning to actually write this story or anything... although... Nanowrimo is starting up next week...

Kidding, kidding! No wrimos of any description until I finish. this. book.

No comments:

Post a Comment