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Plotting: How-to

One of the important aspects of writing anything is the plot. It has to engage the readers and make them want to keep turning the pages to ideally not put the book down but at worst make them want to come back to the book later.

For me personally I find my plot comes out of knowing my characters. I work out who they are and their strengths, weakness, flaws and redeeming features. I also work out what they are passionate about achieving within their background, their past and occupation. This leads me on to how they will meet and I usually try to start my book in some kind of ‘action’ moment before this.

The rest of the plot comes from conflict. Life is made up of trials, situations and problems that humans have to endure and get through. Plot is pretty similar. People like to read about characters overcoming things and getting to the end with some kind of resolution even if not a perfectly happy one.

From the start of the book I figure out what’s likely to go wrong based on their character flaws and weaknesses. Sometimes I’ll bring in a side character or two to help provide conflict and trials for the characters to overcome. In With Proud Humility, the pirates provided the biggest trial but I also had the two main characters clashing to provide trials for each other, as well as Marie’s father providing difficulties.

Often the plot of my stories is a mix of external people doing things to my characters and their own flaws creating situations where they have to grow and learn. By the end of the book I try to make sure they’ve all learnt a little something and are better people. They won’t ever be perfect but they do get closer.

I tend to find with this way of looking at the plot that it evolves out of the characterisation and makes the people easier to relate to. I never really have to sit down and hugely plot out the book. I’ll do rough notes on major events but the characters themselves drive the plot forwards with their personalities and decisions. The ending is usually a fixed point, the resolution point and the things the characters have learnt but the rest in between is simply my narrative of the journey the characters go on.