When I wrote the first draft of Clipped Wings (Work-in-Progress 2) my plotting style was, I admit, non-existent. But, with the necessity of seeing it all laid out for me, I’ve found it necessary to outline this next draft. I’ve learned a few things from outlining that my previous “pantser” lifestyle didn’t allow. The first, background is ridiculously important. The second, main character agency (whether they have it or not) is key to how the plot plays out.
Of course, I would be lying if I said I learned this all on my own. I spent about two months carving my way through Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. She spends a lot of time nailing home a few key points. Namely, emotion is incredibly important to why people keep reading a book, and cause-and-effect drive the story forward. At least, those were two things I got out of the book on my read-through with my current project in mind.
For Clipped Wings, I’ve found my main issue was agency. My main character very rarely made the decisions that led to her actions after the first “act” of the book. To fix the book, I need to fix the agency. To fix the agency, I need to fix what drives her emotionally. That means taking a deeper dive into her background to find what really makes her tick, as well as everybody around her (according to my interpretation of Cron). I am thrilled with what this is doing so far.
I don’t have everything put where it seems to fit quite yet, but I’m feeling much more confident that I’m on the right track. The emotions of all my characters seem to shine through more authentically and the conflicts that arise are already more realistic.
I’m not going to say that it’s all because of Story Genius, because a lot of craft books is what you bring to the table and read into them (e.g. what you’re looking for when you go into them). However, the few gems of wisdom I got out of it have really helped me so far, just as with some of the other great ones from my past writing courses used to.
Now that I know what I’m trying to accomplish, I’ve started using scene cards. I’m sure I’d make Lisa Cron want to slam her head against a wall if she knew I wasn’t going full-out on her format, but I am using the scene cards to plot so far. I’m adding a few other things to them, including “tone” to remind me how I want the scene to feel to the reader.
I never used to be plotter (or an outliner) so the very fact that I’m doing this is a huge step in becoming a more conscious storyteller. At least, that’s how I like to think of it. I have a lot of material from my first couple of drafts I’d like to reuse, but I’m not going to hold onto it if it doesn’t fit this new outline.
This type of creativity gets me very excited. Everyday I feel I get to work on a project that is actually going somewhere.