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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Plotting My Way Through Worlds With Post-it® Notes

Please welcome guest blogger Cara Carnes

I’m a Post-it® note addict. Anyone who knows me knows that I have not one, but two drawers of assorted sizes and colors of the wondrous creations. Over the past three years I’ve wrestled my fetish into a usable tool for creating not only the plots for my books, but also my character arcs and, more importantly, my worlds.

Let’s face it. We can have the most compelling character with a traumatic past and a harrowing mission, but if they are cast within a cardboard backdrop there’s a strong chance a reader will lose interest at some point. For me as a reader, it’s always been critical that I become fully immersed within the character’s world.

Thus began my obsession with what I call world boards. Think of this as a plotting board on steroids. And--for all the pantsers out there hyperventilating at the thought of this--rest assured. IMHO they work just as well if you create them after the book is written. They are merely a tool to ensure that the final product is everything you’d envisioned in terms of plot, characterization and world development.

So, what’s on my board?

I’m sure we’ve all heard of and experimented with assorted deviations on plotting boards. I’ve tried them all with varying degrees of success. This is merely what I’ve created over the years and what works best for me. So, begin with a basic foundation for your board. I structure mine with a space for each chapter. I prefer project boards because they are easily reusable and a bit sturdier than poster board. And, if you aren’t a fan of the Post-it® like I am, an assortment of colored markers will work just as well. This is what I place on mine:
    1. The Plot - For me, I’ve found it best to use one color of sticky note (or marker color) for each plot or subplot within the book. This helps me identify in the end which subplots may have been inadvertently dropped, or otherwise dismissed at some point during the book. For me, it also helps identify which chapters may be sagging.

    1. The Primary Characters - (i.e. the hero and heroine). I give them their own color of sticky notes simply to denote their overall story arc. While each chapter should have a GMC, I prefer to keep track of the hero’s and heroine’s internal and external growth, development and resolution through the book.

    1. The World - Let me preface this section with a note about what I mean by “world.” I do this portion for only the world elements I feel are critical and unique within my book. Any information pertaining to the world which is conveyed to the reader is put on the “world” color Post-it® and added to the character that shows the reader that morsel within the chapter. Since information dumps are passé, I think it is important to spoon feed your world as it pertains to the POV character within each scene. This adds depth to the world if done throughout the book. Readers don’t need to know everything about a world up front, but it is important to know what information they need to know in order to grasp any underlying conflicts that may occur later on in the book.

And IMHO all world information should be presented through the lens of that POV character. Not every character within the world will have the same viewpoint on whatever the fact may be. But it must be presented through the eyes of a POV character.

For example, in a paranormal ST I just completed, the assorted paranormal beings are within a hierarchical structure and the hero is within the highest faction. There are quite a few issues because of this within my book. But one law is that no one shall feed their blood to a human or any paranormal faction beneath them.

I knew this all along. But the reader didn’t. In the book, the hero does exactly that to save the heroine’s life. I kept writing as if it was understood that this was a huge issue. It was only after doing the world portion of the board that I realized the reader had no context with which to have that “Oh crud!” moment I’d intended for them to have because I hadn’t shown that particular world element to them earlier on in the work.

The solution? I rewrote a scene toward the beginning in the hero’s POV to show him dealing with someone else who had violated this creed. This, hopefully, not only enabled the reader to see and understand the law early on, but to see how important it was to the hero. And then later on, demonstrate how crucial the heroine was to him later on, thus reinforcing their arc.

So there you have it. My very abbreviated interpretation of a plotting board. May you have as much fun with Post-it® Notes as I do and may you create worlds which will absorb the reader and make them never want to leave.

Happy writing!

Born in small-town Texas, Cara Carnes was a princess, a pirate, fashion model, actress, rock star and Jon Bon Jovi’s wife all before the age of 13.

In reality, her fascination for enthralling worlds took seed somewhere amidst a somewhat dull day job and a wonderful life filled with family and friends. When she’s not cemented to her chair, Cara loves travelling, photography and reading.

Passion Next Door

Come play with me.

Autumn Scott succumbs to temptation and journeys to The Brigade─a private BDSM resort─for another naughty weekend with sexy neighbor Kade Berges. She expects another chance to explore her fantasies, but finds herself wanting more when Kade and his three friends push her boundaries and welcome her into their world.

Kade Berges hadn’t intended to share more than a few nights of passion with his insatiable New York neighbor, but thanks to meddling friends he finds himself unwilling to accept anything less than Autumn’s full submission. Whether she’s ready remains to be seen.

1 comment:

Lu said...

Excellent post, Cara. I'm too much of a pantser to plan ahead, but I can see this would be valuable tool during revisions. Thanks!