Friday, December 2, 2011

YA Indie Carnival - Fiction Pie

YA writers and bloggers unite each week to share their thoughts, hopes and dreams about what it's like going indie in today's publishing world.

Today's post is all about how to plot a good story. Every one has a different method or style that suits them best. Here's my recipe.

The broth of my story usually simmers in my head for at least a few weeks, sometimes even a month or two. I find leaving it there to bubble brings out the best flavours. I have a document that I continually open and add scenes to during this time, so when I am ready to sit down and start seriously plotting I have pages of jumbled notes to work with.

I then take this broth and start adding the meat. Where do I want my story to go? What do I really want it to say? How do I want my characters to develop? What types of lessons do I want them to learn? Which POV would give the story the best edge? What type of voice and feel am I going for?

As I analyze my different story arcs, I am able to cross off some of the scenes from my document and add more depth to the scenes that are there. I still have room to move within this plan, but it's a great starting point. This way, I can ensure that the story stays at a good pace, has the right types of climaxes and covers the journey in a way the reader will enjoy.

I then need to think about adding the vegetables - these add colour and vibrance to the dish. This is where character profiling comes in. I know characters grow and develop as the story is written, but I think they need a clear back story. I like to know their personality type, I like to know what events in their past have shaped who they are at the time of the story. I like to know what they look like so I can picture how they move and what little quirks make them unique. I want to know about their family interactions and how this effects the way they treat others. We are all influenced by our upbringing and I really enjoy exploring that aspect of my characters.

So my stew is happily brewing. I'm writing scenes, I'm adding to my character profiles as I go and I'm watching the story become this yummy treat to read.

Then comes the taste test. It's usually not too bad, but there are definitely some herbs and spices that could be added. Have I made the scenes colourful and impacting? Is there any scene that is just not cutting it - do I rework it or lose it? This is where I really see if my plotting is heading in the right direction. I usually taste as I go - rereading and tweaking before moving onto the next part. I write my story sequentially so it's easy to go back and read where I'm up to each time. I feel like it keeps my head in the game.

Once I'm happy with the taste, I can dish it out to others and see what they have to say. That's the hardest part, I guess. Like any good chef, I never want to see a wrinkled nose and scrunched up grimace!

So that's my recipe for constructing a good story.
What's yours?

See how the other YA Indie Carnival goers construct their stories...

Here's what's new at YA Indie Carnival this week.


  1. I love this analogy, and I really like the method that you use for writing. It shows that you construct your stories very carefully. I, too, add the spices last. My first drafts have all the essentials, but they're sometimes a bit bland until I go back and revise.

  2. I think the editing process is probably the most important. Too much of one spice or too little of another can totally ruin a dish. It's a delicate balance - same with story telling :)

  3. Love it! And you've just gone and made me hungry! :P

  4. Well, well ,well. Fancy meetin' you here ;) I've been out of the carnival for several weeks due to this and that, so welcome!

    I love this explanation of your process, it's evident you put a lot of thought into it and that you've discovered a workflow that really meshes with your particular writing style. I especially love how you begin your stories. Just adding things that come to you and pondering them and then coming back to them. I think it's a good thing to remember that creativity, good creativity, can't be forced. Thanks for sharing your recipe! :)

    And I really want stew for dinner now.

  5. Well, I'm glad I can make you ladies hungry :)

    I agree - I think good creativity does take time. Stories grow and develop as you come up with new ideas. That's why I find a slow, stewing method works well for me.

    Nice to have you visit, Dani :)

  6. I love the metaphor. :)

    I need to take more notes while I'm letting the plot "simmer"; usually I just try to memorize everything, but then I forget the details--they're often less-important, but ones I wanted to use.

  7. That used to happen to me all the time, which is why I started jotting down notes on a document. I still have most of it filed away in my imagination, but it means I don't forget those little details.

  8. Melissa, Great post. I keep a notebook with me at all times and a flashlight. I've been known to get up and either at the light of the moon or flashlight write down things that just can't wait. You never know where "the good idea" will come from or when. I love your recipe and like all good recipes, I love that we are all sharing ours!