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For today’s Wednesday write in, we are going to focus on plot. These are a few basic exercises that can help get you thinking about the basic structure of your plot – or any plot- before you sit down to write. You can use these to help you with the story you are currently breaking out as part of our novel planning or you can just do this as a separate exercise and then go back to your own work. Either way it is a great way to get your brain thinking about plot.
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Yes, this is our character’s home town. Can you picture them as they go about their daily business? This could be a modern tale, or historical one or even a fantasy tale, the details are up to you. Just pick a person to live in this town and take a moment to sketch out a bit about their life. Is it a fisherman who goes out on the lake everyday and comes home to a large family? Is it a housekeeper in one of the hotels that cater to the rich tourists? Is it the magician’s apprentice? The daughter of a noble lord? Their life can be good or bad. they can be rich or poor. It is your story. Just take a moment to create a character. To see their daily life.
Now, upset that normal life. with your newly created character in mind, try finishing these sentences.
Everything was fine until….
This day was like any other until…
Just when I thought nothing would ever change, but then….
I never expected…but then…
If you want to tell this story first person, go ahead. If you want to stick to third person that is fine too. The basic plan is to figure out what could shake someone out of their everyday life. Does someone die? Does a former gambler go back to gambling after promising not to? Does the hotel burn down? Does the noble lose political power in court? Are fortunes lost or even won?
The turn of fortune doesn’t have to be a bad one. Even something good can completely alter a life. Did someone meet the love of their life when they expected to be alone forever? Did they win the lottery or come into a surprise inheritance? Did they take a rusty something or other to Antiques Road Show and find out that under the dust was a life changing/history changing/ fortune making thing?
Is it something that would affect anyone or is it specific to your character? Does the chicken farmer suddenly discover he is allergic to chickens? Does your hero start to hear voices no one else can hear?
This is the spanner in the works moment. Take whatever character you have created and put something unexpected in their world. Then maybe look at someone else in this little town. It may be small but I’m guessing the population is at least a couple of thousand. Each person in it, from the mayor to the scullery maid has a story, a life that can be altered by one little thing. Play around with it. And then when you are ready, when you have a bit of practice altering lives, look at your own story. Take a moment to write a few sentences about your character’s life as they are living it, and then think of ways it could change.
Later we will get to what they do about the change, but for now, we just need to shake our little darlings out of this comfortable and cozy, or even not so cozy world we put them in.
For this exercise, don’t be afraid to run different scenarios. You may have thought in the beginning that a death was what started change in your character, but may it is life? Maybe it is finding a feather on their writing desk. Have fun with this. You may find that something works better than you thought it would. At the moment nothing is set in stone. Just remember something has to start your character moving in your story. No one picks up and changes things for no reason. You are the one who has to figure out the reason for the change. So get to it.