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Monday, June 6, 2011

I think someone is plotting something.

Let’s talk about plot. I’m working on my next project, and getting acquainted with characters who have been floating around my head for a while. Naturally, I’m trying to flesh out the plot and figure out just what their story is.

How much did you know about your book before you sat down at the computer? Did an idea come to you and you sat down and ran with it? Or did you meticulously plot out every chapter before you even started?

For my first novel, I fell somewhere in between. I had a good idea of where my manuscript was going, but my outline was very rough. In fact, the person who turned out to be the killer in the end wasn’t who I thought they would be when I started. Too obvious, for starters. A rookie mistake.

I think a manuscript is a living, breathing thing that changes as time goes on. That can be a hard concept to come to terms with when you are writing a murder mystery and you have to have a certain idea of where your book is going. For me, the most important part of plotting was dividing the manuscript into three acts, and knowing the basic events in each one. For me, the second act is the longest, about 50% of the total length of the book. At the end of the second and third, I put a major event, a cliff hanger to drive me into the next act. Those events I knew before I started, even if they changed a little as I went.

In all of the plotting going on, I think it is really important not to forget the characters. Often times they will come to me, whisper something in my ear (or hit me over the head with it) and things can change drastically. I have learned not to fight those moments, but embrace them and trust my characters. After all, they know best, and my plot has never suffered for it, but only become better.

So, I want to hear, are you plotting something?

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