Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Plot Twists

Every writer has their own way of plotting a story. I land somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

I cannot write a story without any idea whatsoever of where I’m going or what the story is about. I’ll get lost among rabbit trails and bogged down in swamps.

But neither am I pre-planner. Making endless charts and detailing the exact sequence of ever scene removes any desire to actually write the story.

Rather, I mix the two methods—a wandering plan of sorts. I want the security of boundaries, but within those boundaries give me complete freedom. In plotting that means I need a starting point (usually an opening scene) and a final destination (the climax) with a couple planned pit stops in between. But how I get there—that’s up for grabs.

So my plotting is a bit like taking a trip: I pick up a character from her home and we head toward Point B City where we have hotel reservations tonight. No problem—a straight shot down the interstate. Two hours drive time. Three max.

But then a billboard catches my character’s eye—a restored historic town with free tours. Sounds interesting, and we do have time. So I agree. We veer off the interstate, take the tour, and buy a postcard or two.

When we get back into the car, my character looks at the map. If we stay on this back road, which basically parallels the interstate, we’ll run into Village. We have friends who live there, friends we haven’t seen in oh-so-long. So we call them up, and they’re free for lunch.

We have a great time, eating and talking and catching up. But soon we need to get going. Our reservations at Point B City are waiting. My character and I head back toward the interstate.

But we forget to ask for directions and the map isn't clear, so we get lost twice and have to take a detour because of road construction. But finally we make it back to the interstate and we cruise along for an hour or so.

By this time it’s mid-afternoon and hot. A hole-in-the-wall restaurant advertises the homemade ice cream. How can we resist that?

The locals there are quite friendly and ask us about where we’re headed. We tell them, and they shake their heads—there’s lots of construction coming up that way. Yuck. I hate driving road construction, so I inquire about alternate routes.

The locals offer me three sets of directions, but the minute they mention a scenic route, my character’s face lights up and I know that’s the way we’ll go, steep grades or not.

But as the locals promised, the view compensates for the slower drive. Wow! We pull over at an overlook to take pictures and soak in the tranquility.

As the sun begins to set, the scenic route merges with the interstate and within thirty minutes, we’re checking into our hotel.

What a day! Much more memorable than taking the interstate the whole way. But am I exhausted. I’m glad that tomorrow is a straight-shot down the freeway to Point C, only a couple hours of driving, three hours max…

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