How to get a totally good, definitely usable plot that totally won’t cause you any emotional distress or ruin your life at an exceedingly concerning rate.
Can you guess what time of the year it is?
Because, to me, this is just sort of a normal thing, I write a book every single month, but to writers everywhere else, this month has an event and an overly hellish theme; Nanowrimo.
That’s right kids, it’s nation novel writing month, and I, B. A. Lovejoy, have decided to not only write a book alongside all of you, but also open up the ARCs for said book at the end of the month so everyone who had participated can read a copy if they’d like and let their opinions be known.
Unfortunately, however, in order to have an ARC open, you need to have a book written. And in order to have a book written… you need an idea. Which brings me to today’s topic: plots.
So let’s break this down and do a disclaimer ahead of time: Stronger, more business minded people would probably have a different take on this than me. They’d probably walk you through how to evaluate trends and market data, how to build a brand, yada yada.
That’s not my style. I’m afraid to tell you this, because so many of you have been under the illusion that I am a respectable adult, but unfortunately, I am, in fact, three racoons in a trenchcoat with limited typing ability and a dream.
That dream is just to write books and not be in excruciating pain.
So, with that in mind:
How to choose a plot that you will actually write.
We all want to be the next Shakespeare, or Fitzgerald, or Dickens– someone great and important. Unfortunately, we’re not.
Let’s be real, it’s really hard to write highbrow, literary fiction. I know because, unfortunately, I went to school. For Creative Writing, actually. (And fortunately, I dropped out of graduate school pre-enrollment to write kissing books. I still have that undergraduate Creative Writing degree, however.)
So let’s talk about what makes the perfect book idea: Lists.
Get out a piece of paper and make a list of things that you’re actually interested in. Things that you read, things that you like, things that you know things about. Not concepts, not statements you want to make– this is not how to write the next great american novel. This is how to write a book trash or otherwise. So what the heck do you like?
If I had to make a list of my recent interests, it would go like this:
- Mythology. Just random mythology. Greek, norse, celtic, American folktales. Love em
- Enemies to lovers books. I’m not sorry.
- High Fantasy books and dragons.
- Children’s fantasy books.
- Kissing books.
- Bad indie music.
As you can see, it’s not a great or respectable list, but holy hell is it a list. See, the perfect book idea allows you to encompass as many of your interests as possible and not get bored. Because let’s be real, if you are bored, people are going to know. The writing will be bland, you will be sad, and I will judge you for trying to be someone that you’re not. If you’re the lowbrow fae enemies to lovers lady who seems to have more than a passing interest in arranged marriage, then so be it.
You have a list. Cool. Take those concepts, indulge in them, live and breath them– and come up with four ideas. Know in your heart that you can never do those four ideas, but wish that you could. Do a basic summary of each idea.
Ideally these ideas will look like this:
|Jack Frost Romance||Peter Pan Romance|
|Rivals to lovers romance||Portal romance with faun boyfriends.|
Wow! What a wealth of ideas, but what you want is to ask yourself: Can I make this into a book, or is this just a concept. And, for this exercise (writing one book): Can I do everything I want to in one book with this idea.
So, let’s get right into it. Rivals to lovers is a trope, it is not an idea. Breaks my heart, but not an idea. It can be paired with anything else, but can not stand on its own, it’s like the seasoning to a book here. Maybe like an essential seasoning, but not the be all end all of a book.
Which leaves three ideas, which I shall come up with half hearted plots for and then figure out if they are too ambitious or not ambitious enough.
Jack frost romance:
- Enemies to lovers.
- He’s a bad man who is hated by his village. Reason why to be determined.
- She is given to him as a bride to make him stop freezing things over.
- Unfortunately, he is not as bad of a man as he seems and has a secret reason for being an awful boy.
Peter Pan Retelling:
- Romance through the eyes of Wendy
- She is older but still protective of her brother.
- Peter is older as well but does not wish to grow up because he struggles to know who he will be once he is an adult.
- Perhaps a return to wonderland series?
- Again, I repeat, he is a faun.
- She has to save this magical world.
- He is her unwitting, unwilling accomplice.
- She wants to get home but has to complete her hero’s journey. Unfortunately, along the way, she falls in love.
So, this all seems very stupid, and probably doesn’t make sense, but you know what? We’re powering ahead. Here it is, the big one:
How to choose a totally useable plot to write a single book in a month (or, how not to have three series going at the same time):
The secret is: Scale.
Personal problems are very easy to solve in a single book and can feel more engaging to a reader in a shorter package. Larger problems can not.
So what constitutes a person problem, you may ask. Well, I’m glad you did, because I’m about to get into this:
Personal vs Not so Personal, and the Reason Why I Think a Personal Problem Works Best for a Single Book.
Okay, so what is personal and what is not personal here, you might be asking. These obviously aren’t the real literary terms, because unfortunately my university did rented textbooks to save money and I do not own anything from college.
Personal problems are:
Problems relating to the main character or people involved directly with the main character.
Yep. That’s it.
In fantasy, it’s very rare that a personal problem becomes a series thing, alright?
A lot of it is about world interaction. So, let me try to explain to the best of my ability.
I want to be a better wizard than Twizzle Mcgee, the worst man alive.
This is typically personal and has one book potential because Twizzle Mcgee is a single obstacle to overcome. Unless Twizzle Mcgee evolves rapidly and begins to affect people outside of the main character, no one but her really cares, and it becomes a conflict that is central to her and her journey.
Not so Personal:
I want to be a better wizard than Twizzle Mcgree, killer of babies.
Well now people other than the main character and the reader care about Twizzle Mcgee, and the main character can ascend to a high status as a result of this, which lends itself to wanting to see a character continue to evolve, which lends itself to a series.
I mean, it’s a stronger plot idea for sure. But series.
We’re avoiding series in this household because the last thing you need is three series going at the same time, you naughty writer–
Plus, if you put your heart into it and make the conflict interesting enough, Twizzle Mcgee, the Worst Man Alive, can be a stronger, more worthy opponent in one book than the killer of babies. It’s all about plotting. (Which we’ll talk about.)
So let’s evaluate my ideas here.
Personal conflict. It may seem like it’s not because of the whole endless winter nonsense, but the main character mainly cares about her issues here, i. e. marrying the snow man. Arranged marriage tends to lend itself to one book series and personal conflicts, largely because you’re worried about dealing with this person you’ve been saddled with and, unfortunately, a satisfactory conclusion for many readers is you learning to deal with them.
Unless you add politics, and fire, and murder, and classism.
Personal conflict, Wendy wants to grow up and ends up in Neverland because of her family. She only really cares about them and eventually the rest of the plot is driven by her personal relationships and not the threat of the whole island exploding or something. Also kissing. Always kissing.
Saving the world is not personal but man do I love me some fauns. (Pray for me. Pray that I don’t end up doing this.)
And so, I leave this brainstorming session with two ideas. This may seem like a lot.
It’s not. Trust me.
More often then not, you end up mashing ideas together because you just fall so in love with them and see how they would help other ideas–
Long story short: We’re taking those two ideas and we’re running into the next blog post: Plot mapping. Keep an eye out, because I’ll talk about what the heck I’m choosing and why.
Also, spoiler: Original ideas get morphed into something completely new in the new blog post.
But just for my curiosity, if you want, here is a poll:
Picture is of Brownie Walnut Lovejoy, the patron saint of all B. A. Lovejoy media.