Keeping My Story Straight.

Patricia Davids here with my best writing craft idea. How to Plot a Novel.
I am a visual person. If I read something I remember it better than if I hear the same thing.

This is my plotting wall. It's 4x6 feet, it's Idea Paint on the wall of my office that I put a decorative frame around. It's divided into 16 chapters which My normal for a Love Inspired novel. The painter's tape can be taken off to make more chapters for a longer book or fewer chapters for a novella.

Cool, right? It sure helps me keep my story straight.

Before I start using the wall, I get to know my characters.
I use the following guidelines to develop both hero and heroine.

Character Archetype:
Self-view: Who does he think he is?
View by others: Who do others think he is?
Innermost Fear, Need or Desire (Character is aware of this.)
Unconscious Need or Desire (Character must learn this)
What change is required to achieve love?

Character's goal in this story (what does he want)
Character motivation (why he wants this)
Character's conflict (but what prevents him from obtaining his goal)

We all get to know our characters better by the time we've written a few chapters, so some of this may change as I go along.

Now to the board itself.
Each chapter has a heading, which you can't read on my picture, but the correspond to elements that are necessary to most romance novels. Many thanks to WARA member Starla C. for her handout about this years ago.

These parts of a novel are fluid and may occur earlier or later in the book and do not have to happen in a specific chapter. Physical attraction may be part of the inciting incident where the story takes off or it may occur later. I'm just saying these things need to be in the book, even if they aren't in the exact chapter. If the two characters know each other, then of course, the meeting has already happened and doesn't have to be include at the opening of the story, but should be mentioned somewhere.

1.     Inciting incident/ Meeting
2.     Confront opposing Goals External/ Confront opposing Goals Internal
3.     New Complication
4.     1st stage of attraction: Physical + resistance
5.     1st goal change: Working together
6.     2nd stage of attraction: Emotional + resistance
7.     External Complications Arise
8.     Increased attraction /2nd compromise: Internal goal adjustment
9.     Strong bonding /Romantic feelings: An almost kiss
10.  New complication arises
11.  Emotional risk Acknowledged
12.  Passion for each other surfaces
13.  Emotional Intimacy/ Exchange of fears and goals
14.  Major Problem = Black moment (internal conflict precipitates)
15.  Resolution: One or both Characters change
16.  Happily Ever After moment /Commitment

When I'm cold plotting, I use two different colored markers to write the story into each square as it progresses. When I'm fine tuning my plot, I use colored sticky notes, blue for the hero's pov and pink for the heroine. I use sticky notes because I can move them to a different chapter if that scene works better somewhere else in the story.

And this is how I plot, dream up, envision, or in general, get a handle on the story. You'll see a total of about 400 to 500 words when all this is done. Only 55,000 to 60,000 more words to go to finish a book!

As you can see, plotting is not writing. A well thought out plot is nothing without hours and hours at the keyboard making the story come alive.

Any Questions?



Unknown said...

I Love this, Pat!! Thanks for sharing. I was actually just thinking of diving into my NaNo story and wasn't sure where to start. I've been trying to get my mind around a way to plot that I would work for me. I think this will help get me going in a good direction. My only question would be - any tips on layering in some suspense as well for a inspy suspense?

Pat Davids said...

The things that need to go into a romantic suspense are:
The Crime.
The close calls, each one more intense.
The clues.
The red-herrings
The highpoint of danger
Saving the day.

I read a good article on writing suspense at
Check it out.

Unknown said...

Awesome!! Thanks, Pat!

Rox Delaney said...

HINT: Click on the pic of Pat's plotting wall, and it'll enlarge so you can see the chapter headings.

Excellent, Pat!! I'm like you in that I'm visual, so plotting boards are a must. (I'm using a small one on paper right now.) We work alike yet our ways are different. I guess that's personalization. ☺ If I had a wall I could paint, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Until then, I'll have to stick to my white board(s). Whatever works best, right!

Oh, and I'm keeping those romantic suspense tips. One day I may return to one or two I started, long, long ago. ;)

Penny Rader said...

Thank you sooooo much for posting this, Pat! I've been meaning to try and sketch it in a notebook for reference. your sunflower pic!

Penny Rader said...

Forgot to ask. What does it say on the far left side, beside the grid?

Pat Davids said...

It's the second part of my post about character development.

Joan Vincent said...

A fantastic post which I've saved. I wish I could use a plotting board. I've taken classes in it, done it with WARA and still it feels so alien to me when I try to force myself to it. The fact that I do an outline and then become a by the seat of my pants writer has always seemed very unwriterly to me. Maybe someday I'll grown up and into the plotting board.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Post,

Thank you so much!!! This is incredibly useful, reached an impasse and you have helped to unblock.

Sending you blessings!