There’s a dichotomy in the writer’s world, one that divides brother against brother, sister against mother. This great gulf, this chasm that cannot be bridged, it’s the methodology of how you plan your book.
The Seat of the Pants people (Pantsers, in the vernacular) prefer to eschew a road map. “My destination? I’ll see where that is when I get there,” they say dreamily. It’s a wonder any of them ever finish a book. I mean, who can do that?
Me, I’m a plotter. A hard core plotter. It’s a military operation! Give me graphs, maps, and flow charts. Let’s see that character arc! Yessir! I want complete load-outs and weapons check by 0530! You characters, line up and fill out your character bios. You there! Don’t you leave your unconscious goal blank! I want some plot twists laid down and they better be ambushes. I don’t want the reader to see that claymore until it goes off! When the reader gets to the end, he’d best be holding in his entrails with a spoon!!!!
I’m not so hot in the planning department. While I don’t have much truck with Hobbes’ view on mankind as some sort of pleasure-seeking paramecium, you’d think I’d still seek the pleasures and delights that having a good plot would give you. I start with good intentions, and somewhere about chapter 6, I say, “Who am I kidding? This is a different story than the one in the plot outline.”
I know, some of you are saying, “that’s okay, Matt! You’re one of us. Pantsers are great! You’ll do fine. You can reach the end.” That’s not the problem, nor the solution. I still need an outline. If, for nothing else, to get a great character arc, and then figure out enough plot twists to do something fun that isn’t always predictable and trite.
Those are some pretty vague goals, aren’t they? If I was a character, I’d accuse my author of being lazy and not raising the stakes enough. “Give him some conflict. This whole `I can’t plot a book’ is pretty boring. Can you put in an explosion?”
Perhaps it’s time to turn to the internet random plot generator:
A disfigured wizard is forced to carry out witchcraft.
I guess that would resonate with the BDSM and handicapped community. “Cast the spell, you worm, or I’ll take your wheelchair away!” Fifty shades of handicapped magic.
An untidy cat burglar accidentally picks up an ancient scroll.
Hmmm. Untidy? That’s it? I see a character arc where he becomes super-neat by the end of the book, and is a successful cat burglar after that. How do you accidentally pick up an ancient scroll? Maybe he could become disfigured and be forced to carry out witchcraft.
A fireman has 24 hours to transport – back through time – orphans.
Now we’re talking! Time travel. Why 24 hours? It’s time travel. Take your time, you can just select when you want to arrive with the handy time-o-matic time machine!
When one is thrown out, a car load of lost hoodlums go on a sea voyage.
Oooh, I see some real potential there. “Hey Bubba.” “Yeah, Moxie?” “Why are we on this sailboat, anyways?” “Because we’re going to get the treasure first!” “Oh. Are we going to hit someone to get it?”
A disorganised train driver has a day to prove their theory.
Maybe the untidy cat burgler can help him. And the fireman with his time machine and orphans. Bah!