Question: How Do You Create A Rough Plot Outine?

Numerous questions were asked by writers in my online course in January.  I wanted to share this one with you.
My question is this: Do I start with a rough outline of scenes, using the checklist to insure the scene is driving the story, then go onto adding in sequels and plotting hooks?

My response:

 I plot a little differently than many, but that’s natural.  We each find a way that works with us. I plot with things that should happen without knowing at the time whose POV it will be in or where it will happen. I just know these are the details I want to include, so building in the sequels comes from instinct. I ask myself does the other POV character need a chance to share his/her emotional and mental responses to what happened in the previous scene or situation. If so then I add those elements to his or here next scene.

Hooks are techniques we use within scenes and always at the end of a scene to keep the readers turning pages – so those are also instinctive to some degree but can be set up as you approach the end of your chapter or scene.

Here’s what I do when plot overwhelms me. (You can do this on a brainstorming computer program if you have one.) I actually do it on sticky notes or index cards. I jot down ideas of things that need to happen– information I need to share with the reader, incidents that move the story forward, conflicts that occur, new characters or subplots that enter the story—all kinds of things like this. Then I begin to organize them. Which is the least dramatic element? That goes first. I set up conflicts in order of the dramatic and emotional effect on one or both characters. I sometimes use a subplot to create a hook, but a great way to hook is ending a scene with a troubling question, the telephone ringing when the character is waiting for information, an unexplained noise, a question that needs an answer (which ever works in the story) and then move the scene to the other POVcharacter and sometimes another subplot. This keeps readers griping the pages until the find out what happened in the earlier scene . As I work through these cards or sticky notes, I make decisions about what information needs to be foreshadowed earlier or where the information needs to happen to keep the story moving forward. This works very well for me to present all the action, introspection and dialogue at the most effective place it can be in the story — everything leading to that dire, dark moment when all seems lost — and then the exciting road to a solution and resolve.


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  1. Jillian February 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Thanks for a great post, Gail!
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Gail Gaymer Martin February 16, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Hi Jillian – I’m glad you enjoyed the post on plot outline.


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