Sunday, March 18, 2012

Best Plot Help Ever

Saturday was an amazing day at our local Writing for Charity event. Good people, good food, good cause...fabulous!
In any case, I promised my critique group (hi, guys!) that I would post my spectacular 9 box plot chart here on my blog this week. It is truly the best plot device I have found and suits me well as I like to generally outline - but really don't know everything going in. This chart tells you what needs to come next in your story and then, in revision, you can go back and make sure all the adjoining boxes are addressed.
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So here goes...
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Step #1: take a basic 9x13 piece of paper and fold it into 9 even squares
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Step #2: write the numbers 1-9 starting with 1 in the upper left and ending with 9 in the lower right.
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so like this...
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1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
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Then write the following in each box:
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box 1: Triggering Event - why is your character here in this moment? Main characters introduced. Draw you line in the sand.
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box 2: characterization - build traits of your main character, evoke connection to him/her and introduce secondary characters
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box 3: 1st major turning point in story - what happens to really get this story going? Some flip of circumstance will add great momentum here. It could be positive or negative, but it needs to matter to your character.
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box 4: exposition, fleshing out the story and forshadowing the darkest hour (in revisions, you should connect box 4 issues to every other box it touches...box 1, 5 and 7)
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box 5: connect the dots - this is the most difficult box. In your revision drafts, think about every box it touches and comment in some way on the events in those boxes. Don't write a sagging middle, though - be sure to include some forward motion...some continuing conflict...some reason for emotional connection. Remember to refer to boxes 2, 4 and foreshadow to boxes 6 and 8
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box 6: Negative turning point - things fall apart for character, relate back to the original turning point in box 3
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box 7: antagonist wins! Protagonist seemingly defeated. You forshadow to events in box 8
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box 8: Revelation...main character vows to overcome obstical..remembers the defeat in box 7 and sets up to win for box 9...
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box 9: main character wins!
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It might sound more complicated than it is, but once you fold your paper and jot this down then you'll see how it is really a map for moving your novel along. You don't have to know about box 7 when you start writing...just start and worry about each box as you come to it. Then, in your revisions, go back and make sure you have all of the touching boxes somehow addressed.
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It is important to note that each "box" in your novel should not be even. It's not like you need three chapters for each box...no, it is just a flow chart for the story. Maybe box #1 is a chapter or two...but maybe box #5 is four chapters. That doesn't matter. What matters is that you have each area addressed.
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Does any of this make sense?
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Hope this is helpful....do you use plotting devices like this? do you outline?
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12 comments:

Linda Jackson said...

Thank you! I love this. I think this might actually be a plotting device that I can work with. :)

Anna Staniszewski said...

Love this! Definitely bookmarking this chart. :-)

Mary E Campbell said...

I copied and pasted this - great info. I wanted to go to the Writer's for Charity - just too much going on. Sounds like it was awesome.

Ella Olsen said...

Tess, Thanks so much for your feedback and encouragement at the conference. I am looking forward to incorporating your insightful advice!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I am not naturally a plotter, but I may have to try this. I like plot devices I can actually wrap my brain around. Some seem way too complicated. Thanks, Tess!

Tess said...

Linda: that is exactly what I felt like when I first saw it and it has, indeed, been very helpful.

Anna: great - and congrats on all the good news over in your world :)

Mary: the event really was a great one - but I get how life takes over. first things first, right?

Ella: it was so nice meeting you! do keep in touch and good luck with your adorable story. something tells me there are lots of great stories floating around in your head.

Amy: I'm not either and that is why this is such a great device. You can plot as you go!

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

That's a good visual map. Your event sounds great.

Jo Schaffer said...

Cool little exercise...

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks, Tess! I'll be printing this one off and making a template...

Shari Green said...

Ooh, I like this! Thanks for sharing it. :)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Going to try this today for a novel I'm plotting. Printing! Thanks for directing me here!
~ Wendy

Robin said...

I found your blog from Ilima Todd's post today. I'm not a big plotter myself, so this method looks super tempting. I'm going to use it for my NaNo next month. Now to locate some 9 x 13 paper:)