Plot Exercise 10: Fish Out of Water

Exercise 10: Fish Out of Water
From Kristina Bjoran (#2)

My Thoughts
This exercise ended up pushing me in a surprising way that none of the others have. I was interested in focusing on my hero because I thought it would be really fun to stick him in an uncomfortable situation, but as I started to brainstorm I realized that I couldn’t think of a single situation he would balk at. Not okay!

Because I needed to backtrack to do some more character work on him, the exercise took more time than the previous ones, but once I did that, I came up with some great ways to make him squirm. Overall, I liked the exercise itself for the comedy of the resulting scene, but I’m mostly grateful that it brought to light the need to more fully develop this character.

Up Tomorrow
The Avenger (#4)

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Plot Exercise 9: Disaster Strikes

Exercise 9: Disaster Strikes
From Kristina Bjoran (#3)

My Thoughts
Even more than confrontation, a disaster is a fantastic way to push the plot in a new direction, or at least to introduce a conflict or an obstacle. I decided on a house fire, and it was fun to play around with all of the possibilities that could arise out of that (fun in a terrorize-my-characters way, of course).

What if someone went missing? What if someone needed medical attention, but it wasn’t available? What if someone died? The what-ifs go on and on, and all of them have major plot fallout. I moved forward with the fire and a missing character, and it ended up with some great drama and some great relationship development.

Up Tomorrow
Fish Out of Water (#2)

Plot Exercise 8: Confrontation

Exercise 8: Confrontation
From Kristina Bjoran (#1)

My Thoughts
Confrontation is such a great tool to push characters in new directions. I used this exercise to have my heroine confront a secondary character she doesn’t have much regular interaction with. What was especially fun was to see where the argument went – because they don’t know each other well and neither can anticipate the other’s reaction. But even more importantly, *I* couldn’t and it was fun to see how they both reacted in an uncomfortable and unusual situation.

I love this idea of using creative writing exercises to push the plot in different ways. I may not end up using this fight or the ensuing backlash, but I very well might. Some of the fallout ended up to be really interesting and could push forward some of the conflict I already had planned.

Up Tomorrow
Disaster Strikes (#3)

Plot Exercise 7: Create a Foundation Document

Exercise 7: Create a Foundation Document
From Iconoclastic Writer (Step 6)

My Thoughts
For the past few weeks, I’ve been laying the groundwork for a foundation document, and now’s the time to build one! At this point, my basic outline, timeline, and map are finished, so I really need to work on fleshing things out: who knows what when, chapter-by-chapter scene list, and boredom check.

My strategy is to start with the Plotting Worksheet I did last week. It’s got all my great conflict and rising tension stuff packed in there, along with some random notes (they’re everywhere!). Then I have to pull in my other “what if he did this?” and “what if this happened?” notes from all the brainstorming and exercises I’ve done and get them into some semblance of an order. It’s messy and incomplete – this is definitely not a one-day exercise – but it’s a great start.

I’m really excited about the idea of a foundation document, though. I talked a bit last week about finding a balance between over-organizing and not preparing enough, and I feel like this is the right amount. The prompts I’m giving myself are general enough to allow me the freedom to switch gears, but they’ll also keep me on track as I move through drafting.

For the rest of this week, I’m going to keep putting finishing touches on the foundation document, but I’m not getting rid of the exercises that quickly! So many writing books talk about challenging your protagonists or throwing something crazy into the mix to see what happens that I thought it would be fun to work through a few creative prompts to see what shakes out. Kristina Bjoran offers five great ones here.

Up Tomorrow
Confrontation (#1)

Plot Exercise 6: Timeline

Exercise 6: Timeline
From Daily Writing Tips (#4)

My Thoughts
One of the things I’m still struggling with is finding the balance between planning enough and leaving myself enough room to freely change course if I come up with a great idea mid-stream. In general, I’m a hardcore organizer (with outlines for my outlines) but in the past I’ve found that to be a bit stifling. On the other hand, a blinking cursor on an empty screen is pretty daunting, so any prompt at all – even if it’s a few general words about what might happen in the chapter – is a blessing.

As for this exercise, I do think Annie Neugebauer’s worksheet from yesterday pretty much serves as a timeline, so other than verifying the order and making some decisions about how detailed I wanted to get, there probably wasn’t a need to do anything extra. The one thing I did want to add was actual times. Another thing I’m still working on is timing within my pieces – how many days has it been since John saw Angie? Is chapter 2 still happening during the same day as chapter 1? How many hours later? I’m trying to be better about communicating time passing, so mapping it out clearly for myself ahead of time is important!

Up on Monday
Create a Foundation Document
From Iconoclastic Writer (Step 6)

Plot Exercise 5: Plotting Worksheet with Prompts

Exercise 5: Plotting Worksheet with Prompts
From Annie Neugebauer

My Thoughts
This was a fantastic follow-up to yesterday’s Rough Out the Basics exercise because it asks you to work through your characters’ conflict journey. I thought the sketchiness of yesterday’s was great, but when I took the time to answer these in-depth questions about my hero’s and heroine’s conflicts at specific moments during the novel, it opened up all kinds of new story ideas. I love that Neugebauer effectively walks you through mapping out the steps of the Story Arc diagram we looked at a few days ago.

visual-story-line

It’s time consuming, and I’m sure some of my obstacles will shift or change as I work through drafting, but as a plot brainstorming tool, this is one I’ll definitely keep handy. Together with yesterday’s, it will also be really helpful when we tackle the timeline tomorrow.

Up Next
Timeline
From Daily Writing Tips (#4)

Plot Exercise 4: Rough Out the Basics

Exercise 4: Rough Out the Basics
From Iconoclastic Writer (Step 4/Plot)

My Thoughts
It will probably surprise no one that I liked this exercise a lot (if you’ve been keeping up with the blog, I’ve been pretty thrilled with all the exercises thus far). This is another one designed for NaNoWriMo prep, and I appreciate its pointed questions and expectation of brevity.

I find that the sketchiness works really well for me to get a good overview of my plan. What it really helped me with was to find the holes in my current plot (there are several!), so now I can focus on brainstorming ways to fill them and/or better connect the dots I already have. It also breaks things down into easily manageable chunks, which will help when we get to creating a timeline.

Up Next
Plotting Worksheet with Prompts
From Annie Neugebauer

Plot Exercise 3: One-Sentence Plot

Exercise 3: One-Sentence Plot
From Daily Writing Tips (#2)
Describe you story in one sentence.

My Thoughts
Some people might see this exercise description and think it sounds way too basic, or like a waste of time. For me, taking a minute (or 45) to distill my plot into one sentence isn’t just worthwhile – it’s necessary.

I tend to overcomplicate things. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. My natural tendency is to keep adding subplots into my WIP until it’s ready to burst. I’m getting better at editing them out (thankfully), but even the brainstorming of all those glorious subplots can muddy the waters. Taking the time to articulate the answer to the very simple question “hey Sara, what’s your book about?” is very worth my time.

Up Next
Rough Out the Basics
From Iconoclastic Writer (Step 4/Plot)

Plot Exercise 2: Define the Conflict(s)

Exercise 2: Define the Conflict(s)
From Iconoclastic Writer (Step 3)

My Thoughts
You may have noticed that I like anything that forces me to look at my characters as a group and see how their goals/motivations/conflicts/etc. interact, so it will come as no surprise that I liked this exercise a lot. I’m writing a romance, so I did use the grid for my hero and heroine. I felt like the antagonist’s conflict would intersect with both of them pretty significantly though, so I decided to do a 3×2 grid instead, with Hero/Heroine/Antagonist as columns and Goal/Obstacles as rows. I also added a “Notes” row.

Before I started the exercise, I’d felt like I had a pretty good handle on my characters’ goals, but looking at those neat little boxes made me work to distill them even further. Then, looking at the three of them all together gave me some great plot ideas…hence the notes row.

Full disclosure: I have these “notes” rows and “brainstorming” boxes and jotted-down sticky notes everywhere now. These exercises are generating lots of ideas!

Up Next
One-Sentence Plot
From Daily Writing Tips (#2)
Describe your story in one sentence.