Monday, August 06, 2007

The Writing Process: Part Two Vague Plot

Disclaimer: Every writer is different. Every story is different. My process for this story may not work for you, but I hope you find it helpful.

When we left off last time, I said we were going to get into massaging a plot. At this point, I take my cast of characters, drop them in to metaphorical bucket and watch to see what happens.

I'm not kidding.

Ok, I'll put it in more concrete terms—I mull it about in my mind. One of two things will happen here. One is nothing. If nothing happens, this story stays in plotbunny form until the characters decide to talk to me or I get a few paragraphs written and it sits there collecting dust. To date my shortest WIP is 353 words (earlier I told Marbles 500 and I was mistaken.) Those 353 words consist of a bungling mage, a wannabe knight, a faerie screaming in terror, a sister who is now a toad and a sentient candle with an attitude. "Just long enough to not be bleeding" has been the last line of that story for MONTHS.

The other thing that might happen is that I'll get flashes of scenes. Note: I have not yet tried to control or guide anything. I'm waiting for the characters to talk to me. Sometimes I'll type out these flashes and sometimes I'll let them sit in my head.

What I WON'T do is actually write out the scenes. If I satisfy my itch to get to a certain scene, I'll kill my motivation to write everything that leads up to it. This is a quirk I know about myself. Additionally, I write linearly or sequentially. This means I start at the beginning and I write the scenes in order all the way to the end. I do not bounce around. Some writers can bounce around and write whatever scene is itching their minds, but that confuses the heck out of me. I've even met writers who use the old note card system and, whoa boy, that's way too much organization for me. Have you seen my sock drawer? I'm not an organized person in my day to day life thus my creative process isn't organized.

If something is going on in my life and it will be a while before I'll get to the Pet WIP of the Month, I'll write out the flashes. These are VERY rough and look like this…

(Speaking through a communication implant.)

“Maintenance is about done, Kaz, you almost ready? We’ve got a job.”

“What’s this job? Who are we after?”

“We have some crates we’re taking to…”

“Crates? We’re bounty hunters not cargo runners!”

“It pays well.”

“Fine. What’s in the crates?”

“We’re being paid enough to not ask that question.”

“Better not be biohazard or I’m kicking your ass when you grow another head.”


“Enron! Enron!”

“If you knew the history of that, you wouldn’t call your accountant by that name.”

“Start the engines!”

“Oh god, you picked up another stray, didn’t you?”

“I’ll remember your ‘no stray’ rule the next time I see someone running from a casino. Start the damn engines!”


“And one more space station to add to our banned list.”

“Damn it. I liked that one. They had clean bathrooms.”


“You stole a Karne woman! Idiot! The whole fucking species will be after us!”

“If you can’t handle it, Grease, I’ll have to get another co-pilot.”

“Those sand monsters won’t best me.” Grease shrugged tossing her braids over her shoulders. Going after her pride was always the best choice. “They won’t best me and they won’t out run my wrench.” She took her seat and handled the control stick like she needed a moment alone. “Besides, we can always use someone to do some cooking and cleaning around here.”

“I didn’t pull her out of slavery just to put her back into it.” Kaz wondered if he could train her to handle the weapons. She probably wouldn’t name one of them and run off in hopes of marrying it. Probably—but who would have seen that coming the first time?


Apparently Kawosky's original name was Kaz. Ya know, I like Kaz better. It sounds more "spacey" to me.

But this gives me a vague idea of the plot. 1) Kaz has to steal Ryir. 2) They get banned from a spaces station. 3) The Karne will be coming after them. 4) They have a job to do. 5) Kaz and Ryir need to have hot sex and fall in love (all together now…Awww…) 6) Everyone thinks Ryir IS A WOMAN.
Now, I start asking myself questions.

1) What's the job?
2) Where's the job taking them?
3) How can I make the job worse?
4) What has to happen that makes it logical for Kaz to kidnap someone without making Kaz look like the badguy?
5) What's the situation that would allow someone as repressed and sheltered as Ryir be in a position to have contact with Kaz?

Now, I mull these over in my head and play a small active role in guiding the plot. That small active role is logic. What logically has to happen for X to happen? What can make this believable even if it's not probable? (Honestly, how much in fiction is truly probable?) A why is my brain freaking trying to pound its way out of my skull?

Two Aleve, several hours and minus one headache later…

Now the job. What do I already know about it? 1) It's a cargo job. 2) The customer wants this to be kept a secret. People are usually protective about contraband. What kinds of things are contraband? Weapons, drugs, pornography, body parts, some medicines, and things involving the slave trade.

(Side note: As I'm reflecting upon this, I think I missed something really funny here. I looked at what would be contraband for my time and my world. This story is set in the future and I should have had them go through a really dangerous situation for something stupid like Jell-O, stuffed bunnies or dirty jock straps.)

We want some danger with this to add some excitement to the story. So, I've decided that first round of mystery cargo will be guns. The second round will be medicines. What would need both of those? A war zone. So, now our "questionable" crew that has no weapons officer will be traveling through a war zone while being chased by the Karne. If I can't find a good story in there, I might as well hang up my keyboard.

Why two rounds of cargo? I figure with the Karne after them, they won't go near Karne space unless they have to. The only way to make them is to have them deliver some goods just to find out the final payment comes at the end. The destination which is through…oh my Kaz…Grease is going to beat you senseless.

So we now have three plot lines. 1) The job. 2) The Karne are out after them. 3) the love story. What can I do to weave these together? Make the job travel through Karne space and use the close quarters of the ship as well as Kaz's sucker for a hard luck story character trait and Ryir's view of seeing himself as property to start the "love" aspect of the story. Eww…that sounds unhealthy. No one wants to see an unhealthy relationship between the sexy protagonists, right? So, I need something that will allow me to show Kaz screwing up (romantically) in a charming way and trying to coax Ryir into independence while showing Ryir forgiving Kaz's screw ups while appreciating the attentions of someone who cares.

At this point, I start getting more flashes of scenes, but they're too detailed and too dependent upon what comes before them to write them out. I need to hold them in my head and work my way toward them. This is where I'll differ from many other writers. Some would go a head and write those scenes. For those writers my way of working doesn't work.

If you notice, my plot lines are really vague, but I'm not worried about that. I'll flesh it out as I write it, rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it and… My character designs aren't all that specific either. I ain't worried. Alvaro started as…"the blond one who knows a lot."

To recap, we now have some rough character designs and three plotlines.

Next stop on the writing process, we'll hit the writing phase.

By the way, FEEL FREE to ask me questions. This is my process and I'm not accustomed to explaining it. I've probably skipped a few things. I want this to feel like a dialog between us and not a lecture.


MissWrite said...

There are soooo many things I love about this idea of yours. You showed it to me once a while back. The style suits your snarky humor to a 'T' (loved the line, damn, I liked that one, they had clean bathrooms. And the Enron quip.) I think you have a really cool parallel to the talliban issues while not 'dating' it by making any direct correlations.

ONE thing I'd suggest, the moment I read 'sandworms' I was like, oh dang can't she come up with something that is 'her own'... we've all read the 'scary sandworm' thing, or seen it in movies... you are WAY too artfull, original, and imaginative to settle for 'sandworms'. LOL Come on, you can do better.

Other than that... this is one you should REALLY put a fire under.

IM Cupnjava said...

I agree with you about the "sandworms" insult. The character who says it isn't above a racial slur, but I think it needs to be more creative.