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Plotting a mystery

As I was sitting down to start revising that outline last night, I commented to Chris about the 'making everything fit better' change the group had helped me come up with, and we ended up having a two-hour conversation which was mostly me explaining to him how the plot was going to work (he'd only known the bare basics before), and him questioning anything that he didn't quite understand. He got me to think about it from the point of view of every player in the "mystery", and to go back right to the beginning (not of the story, but of when the events in the story got started behind the scenes), until it all made sense for everyone. And I ended up with a backstory and through-story that completely makes sense for all the characters involved. Woot! (Naturally I typed this all up immediately for fear I might forget some crucial detail.)

I've never gone over a plot quite that thoroughly before, but I think it's necessary for something like a mystery. I was dealing with four major players/sets of players who each were looking to achieve different things, and who were often deceiving each other on top of that. So to look at it first from the perspective of group A--what do they want to accomplish? How would they have decided what to do? Therefore why would they have decided this? How then would they put that into action? How is this decision going to come across in their interactions with group B and person C and D? Now let's go back to group B. What does group B want? When group A interacts with them, how do they respond, and why? Back to group A--how do they respond to group B's response? And so on. And every time I realized, oh wait, it wouldn't make sense for group A to want this and get B to do that, I had to rethink what A was going to do, which then meant rethinking how B would respond...

It sounds like a headache, and it certainly made my head work, but the way I was doing it before (knowing a couple of character's motivations, and making up sketchy motives for the other players) I was running into a lot of things that ultimately didn't make sense if anyone stopped to ask themselves "but then why wouldn't they have done it this other way?" or "and this really just ended up happening by coincidence?" The new plotline has no coincidences. Everyone's actions in the new plotline (I think) make sense. There's going to be a trick in getting those motivations across, considering that a couple of the big-big players are mostly behind the scenes through the whole novel, but better I know what I'm trying to get across in the first place.

So, if you're plotting a fairly complicated story, with several diverging interests, I highly recommend breaking it down like that. (Heck, it'd probably be useful for a less complicated story, too, it'd just take a lot less time.)

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
astres
Feb. 12th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
GMC - Goals, Motivations, Conflicts for every character. When I learned that, I learned it filled in every blank if you do it for every character :P
megancrewe
Feb. 12th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
See, I'd done that (I knew, for example, what the group who caused the possession wanted--goals--and why they wanted it--motivations--and what was going to stand in their way--conflicts). The problem was mostly in the hows (how would they attempt to acheive those goals?) and the smaller, related whys (why would they attempt to acheive the goal that way and not some other way?). The whole thing started when someone asked "Why are they doing it this way when this other way would make things much easier for them?" and the only real answer I had was "I hadn't thought about it, and if I do it the other way it screws up the story I planned" (which is perfectly good author motivation, but... ;) ). So I had to fix all the hows and the little whys, and make sure everyone's hows and whys fit together.
astres
Feb. 13th, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)
I usually put in the hows and whys as I go X.x The problem is, I have a bunch of really planned stories but they're terribly cliche and I can't seem to let them go XD
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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