friday food for thought

How do you write? Plotter or pantzer? Or do you ride somewhere in the middle of that infinite scale?

As I gain more experience, I tend to lean more toward plotting. I'm not a natural plotter. I think in terms of problems and characters all right, but shaping a story does not come naturally to me. It should. It's fairly well standardized. But it's not something I naturally force my characters into. I've had to learn to do it.

I can keep a myriad of character details in my head, and as a young writer, that was my focus. It was easy and fun,. Kaelin's going to respond to most verbal provocation with a blank stare and some careful thought. Talen seethes inwardly, but you'll only see it on his face if he wants you to. Even physical details take solid shape in my mind. Jaim has hair like molten silver. Kaelin has a red scar on his chest from a knife fight in the early part of the fourth book. Even my short story characters have characteristics that stick with me. Christian, from "Prey for Change," has thinning hair, scraggly around his narrow face. His eyes are haunted and shadowed even when he's in full Change and at the height of his power. And I wrote that story absolutely ages ago.

But those details don't add up to a plot, and choreography often eludes me. Did they leave by night or day, and how does that affect the time of their arrival? Is the sun in their eyes? Is Denver 30 klicks or more like fifteen from Boulder? Is Lucy still in this scene or do I need to write in an exit because she's not saying anything?

Some of that's taken care of by careful revision, but more of it is taken care of by this: my storyboard. This one is for THE SILVER SCAR. It's in pencil because it'll get changed. But generally, it remains much the same, detours scribbled in later. But before I made that, I wrote a query (a version of which you read here) and a longer synopsis with character details and scene questions.

If you look closely, you'll notice some lines drawn across the plot. This is plotting 101, marking setbacks and high tension points. I typically fill in the major lines first (this is my first novel diagram, but I've done tons of them for short stories). One quarter of the way through the book, Trinidad's priest announces he believes Trinidad is the second coming. Trinidad knows it's not true, so it's a conflict with someone he loves, to his mind a major conflict in midst of a lot of confusion. But worse is coming. At the mid-point of SCAR, Trinidad's bishop announces he believes Trinidad is the Anti-Christ and imprisons him when Trinidad must be free to help others. Trinidad could care less what this bishop thinks of him--they've never got on--but this belief strikes at the heart of Trinidad's fears and brings longstanding tensions to a head in the Church, which until now, has been his rock. This is a major turning point--the major turning point.

For me, the synopsis is a creative effort, but these storyboards reign what often becomes rambling briars into manageable scenes, structured into the shape of the story, used since time immemorial.

So. Now I want to learn more. What works for you?

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