Monday, 5 December 2016

Plot board 2: the layout

Okay, a little bit more about the plot board! I use it to pin ideas on in the planning stages, to help with restructuring and editing in the revision stages, and just generally to help me to think through my book in a visual way when I need it.

Before I blog about how I’m using it on my current book, I might as well explain how I lay it out, otherwise none of it is going to make sense!

If I could have one very, very long board so I could see the whole of my story in one line, I would, but since they don’t make cork boards that shape, I have to make do with splitting the story up into four sections: Act 1,Act 2: split into two parts – a & b,Act 3.

I don’t think there are any set rules when it comes to story structure. Some story gurus split the story into three acts, others split it into four. There are different terms to for different parts of a story, depending on who you read or who you listen to, but most tend to outline the same basics elements of a story; they just have different ways of describing it. My advice is to go with what works makes sense to you; I’m just going to share what fits my personal process the best.

As I mentioned in my last post, I like the way Michael Hauge splits up a story: three acts, with a turning point between each, and then turning points in the middle of each act. Now, this can sound a bit artificial – and some of you reading this may be breaking out in hives at the thought of all this scary structure! – but even before I knew any of this, my stories tended to hit these breaks and turning points. I think it’s because stories that work tend to have a certain rhythm, certain rises and falls in tension, twists and turns in direction to keep them interesting. Quite often I don't plan what's going to be a turning point, but it becomes obvious as the story evolves.

If you look at my empty plot board pic, you can see I have some headings in yellow and these are my stages/turning points. I’ll outline them here and then over the next few posts I’m going to go into more detail:

Act 1
Section 1: Ordinary world
Turning point 1: The call to adventure
Section 2: Debate & denial
Turning point 2: Change of plans

Act 2
Section 3: Progress (Fun & Games)
Turning point 3: Point of no return
Section 4: Complications & Higher Stakes (Bad guys close in)
Turning point 4: Black moment

Act 3:
Section 5: Final push (Dark night of the soul/Solution)
Turning point 5: Climax
Section 6: New world (Aftermath)

Next time, we'll break down Act One...


Unknown said...

Hi Fiona. Hope you had a great Christmas. I found this post and the last one really helpful, as well as the Michael Hague link.

You've really given me a good start on the route to using a proper story structure (hopefully).

I'm looking forward to the rest of this thread.


Fiona Harper said...

Glad it was helpful, Eilidh! Next post coming soon...