Plot farming.

I’m sure it’s no great shocker by now that I like structure. In the past, I’ve tried several structures, but three always seem to float to the top.

There’s the traditional “One Monomyth To Rule Them All” (in 8- and 12- part harmonies). The Snowflake has been kind to me. I’m also quite fond of Kitten Rescue. They’re all fine systems, so I mashed them all together and used what made sense to me.

One more thing …

When I was young, there was a cartoon character that finished every conversation with the phrase “One more thing…” Thirty years later, I’m still saying it because it makes me smile.

The truth to One More Thing is really simple: I think I can multitask. In reality, I perform much better when I can concentrate on a thing and branch out from there. Building connections between things, thoughts, feelings, is how I think. It’s also how I’m going to plot.

I like whiteboards, paper plotting, post-its … but this time around I just used Google spreadsheets. Nothing can beat copy-paste for speed, and I didn’t have to murder a tree with my indecisive back-and-forth.

I start by naming the first row BEGIN… and the last row END. Then I fill in that character’s goals. I don’t want to go into a huge example here, so I’ll pick my B Story – the conflict between Ethan the General Store Clerk, and Parker the Owner. This is where I plant the seeds that I will farm into a whole bunch of story.

BeginEthan wants more money
EndEthan has more money

Pretty simple so far. For the next pass, I want to add one or two things in between those. I’ll add my conflict, and the eventual resolution.

BeginEthan’s family is struggling. He asks for a raise.
ConflictParker says no.
ResolutionEthan gets a better job.
EndEthan has more money.

I just keep adding One More Thing until I have a character timeline that I’m happy with. Before I knew it, Ethan had a whole arc that I hadn’t really planned on, but that fit in really well with my theme of generational change. My protagonist will tell the larger story with demons and magic. Ethan will be the foreshadowing that gets that idea in the reader’s head. At the end when the credits roll, I want the reader to look back and think hey, we were talking about this the whole time.

SetupEthan’s family is struggling.
CatalystEthan asks for a raise because he has a lot of responsibility, and feels like he’s earned it after years of good service. Parker says no… in a really rude way. Ethan quits.
DecisionThe family needs even more money now. Ethan is forced to go to the city to find work.
ConsequenceThe people of Acorn rely on Ethan to do odd jobs for them. On a fixed income, they can’t afford to hire a pro. Ethan hates the city, too. Guilt and frustration mount.
Reinforce the themeNow the General Store is losing business too. Money that used to buy his goods are being spent on the fixes Ethan used to do on the cheap. Because power wasn’t allowed to glide down naturally, the community is suffering.
MidpointEthan opens his own store. Parker feels threatened.
SqueezeBoth shops are competing for the same limited dollars. Rivalry between supporters of Ethan and Parker.
DarkEthan is out of savings, his truck is dead, and now he can’t go the city to find work. Was this venture a failure?
ResolutionEthan and Parker realize that cooperation is not defeat, and they are stronger together than apart. Ethan gets his raise. The community is stronger. Respect for Parker increases.

Once I got Ethan’s arc plotted, I moved over to my real protagonist. And her friend. And her mom. And… soon, I had ten nice little stories that I was pretty well happy with.

Next time we can take all of those character arcs and start layering them together into our plot plan.


What do you think?