Question Wednesday: Plotting

 On January 2nd I put out a call for questions (in conjunction with a contest) and many of you asked some great ones! Every Wednesday (until I run out of questions), I’ll be answering them here! There may be ones that are related, so I’ll answer multiple questions at once. You can always add a new questions to the queue by posting them as a comment here.

Suzanne perreira asks: I have enjoyed the series so far and can’t wait for the next book. My question is, do you think of the entire story before you start writing or do you let it flow and see where it goes? And Jeannie Lovell asks: How do you organize your thought and plot when you first start a book? And do you know the entire plot before you start writing or do you build the plot as you go? 

I will admit, I am a plotter. Mostly. But let me start with the first part.

When I start a book, I tend to do character work first, building out the pasts and information about my main characters so that I understand what their motivations and reactions will be. I firmly believe that character IS plot in almost all scenarios. Honestly, you aren’t as interested in monsters, right? You’re more interested in how people react to the monsters. Or how the monsters react to people. Or how they react to each other. That’s at the core of most stories, the emotional and physical reactions.

In addition, how your main characters react actually DOES become plot. If someone is murdered and the hero curls up in a ball, that leads to one kind of story. If he grows angry and vengeful, that’s another kind. If he decides to solve the murder, yet another kind. Knowing my characters helps me know what they will do and how the story will progress.

Once I have my characters are fully formed and I have a basic understanding of them, I do a full plot of as many scenes as I can, in order, based on the synopsis I’ve written (I have to write a synopsis for my publishers). Of course, during the writing I leave space so things can change. Sometimes they do. But I have a good roadmap for where I’m going and how to get there.

Of course, that’s with 99% of my books. For the other 1%? Well, I wrote Married With Zombies entirely on the fly. I didn’t plot, I didn’t do character sheets, I didn’t do anything but try to make myself laugh. So any way that works, from book to book, from author to author, is how to best write any book.

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