Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Throw It All In

Plotting is so haphazard to me. It takes drafts and drafts and drafts for me to get the plot right.

But if we're talking first draft plotting, it all boils down to this: I take what I see and throw it in the mix. A cool article I saw in the newspaper? Jam it in there.

Someone telling an anecdote about their night in the city? That'll fit somehow.

A location I've only been to a few times and is perfectly creepy? I can use that.

Basically, anything cool that's running around in my head gets thrown into the mix. Then it's a smoothing out (or altogether cutting out) process. I go over and over and over what I've done and smooth out the edges, create other more jagged edges, and then I have a plot.

Okay, that's not entirely true. There are other things too. Mostly I start with a central idea. A lot of people start with a character. Not me. I start with an idea.

A detective's mother has Alzheimer's and remembers a murder from her past.

A man is convinced his ex's new boyfriend is actually a spy.

Then I just start to build. And revise.

And revise.

And revise.

It's hard to write this all out because it changes each time. Duane Swierczynski likes to say that each time he writes a novel he has to learn how to write that novel. I agree with that. Plotting is basically a different process each time. For WITNESS TO DEATH, I really had to get to know the characters.

For THE EVIL THAT MEN DO I had to be somewhere and overhear something at the right time.

So, each time I plot, I plot differently.

Yeah, I'm no help at all, am I?

Sorry, I'm just trying to get the plot that's in my head out on to paper.... for the fourth time.


Ian Ayris said...

Interesting stuff, Dave. Seeing as I write in the complete opposite way - purely character driven - it's fascinating to read how the plotters plot. Love that phrase about learning how to write that particular novel each time - really kills complacency, that one.

And building from an idea rather than a character, that's definitely something for me to reflect on. Writing character driven stuff I find a really visceral experience. Just wondered if the plot driven stuff is more cerebral, and do you think the choice to write either links to the writer's innate personality?

Good stuff, Dave.


Al Tucher said...

Duane's point is excellent. I find that my experience with the last novel doesn't help much with the current one. Sigh.