Plotting Road Map

Ahhh, plotting.  I love it.  Yes, yes I do.  And for as much as I love it, I know just as many people who hate it.  I mean, serious hate!  Which I get.  I understand that storytelling has as much delight in the discovery of the story as it does in the final product. And many anti-plotters feel that plotting takes the fun out of writing, the joy out of the process.  And that totally works for them.

For me, though, the joy is in delving into the emotional journey of my characters, of seeing them come to life and watching their discovery of their own strengths, of love, and of the emotional healing they bring to each other.  So knowing where they are going as they go through all of this helps me focus on that part of the story, instead of getting distracted by the minutiae. Because, yes, I am easily distracted.

I think one of the best analogies to plotting –at least to the way that I plot–is the road trip.

When you take a road trip, you have a destination in mind (this is opposed to the ‘lets go for a drive’ trip).  What we all take on our trip, how we plan it and the timing is different from person to person, but the general steps are there.

Know where we’re starting from (inciting incidence) 
Know where we’re going to (story goal, Happy Ever After)
Have a general idea of the distance between the two (length of story)
Plan for the trip challenges. ie: There is always a snowy mountain to climb just before we get to our destination, bring chains.  (dark moment)

We usually pack whatever we figure is necessary.  Clothes, snacks, entertainment. (characterization, conflicts) 
We have a general idea of the route (setting) and the speed limits/length of travel (pacing)
And most of all, we hopefully know our mode of transportation well enough to count on it getting us from starting point to destination (characterization)

That doesn’t mean we have to travel the exact route we lay out before the trip.  Nor does it mean we travel the same route with every story.  There are always options, always detours. The freakshows on the side of the road change every day, we can visit the circus one day, the zoo another.  Sometimes we know we want to visit them when we set out.  Did you know there are apps out there that highlight bizarre and weird things to see between Point A and Point Z, and all the letter combinations in between?  That help you decide the costs of travel or what to eat?  That offer up all sorts of entertaining car games to prevent anyone from accidentally locking their kid in the trunk to avoid hearing ‘are we there yet’ for the millionth time.  Really -apps.  Like writing software, there are lots of them.

So, as with a road trip (and as the many apps for road trip planning highlight), you can plan your journey right down to the smallest detail, including which gas stations you’ll stop at, the route for the best mpg, which diner you’ll eat at and what you’ll order. Or you can get in the car, hit the gas station when the red empty light flashes, stop and see anything and everything entertaining along the way.  And in case of roadside emergencies, you can rely on your ingenuity, the kindness of strangers. Or you can make sure you have a spare tire, a few tools or roadside assistance before you leave home 😀

That, my friends, is my roadtrip analogy for plotting 🙂

So… seriously, how much planning do you do for roadtrips?  Me? I’m all about the emergencies.  I try to think of every bad thing that could happen, then prepare for it.  I’ve never once tried to figure out the cost per gallon and most cost effective travel plan, though.  Hmmm….. 

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