|Not all villains are a single person.|
(The flag of the Alliance; Firefly)
See, I was hoping to start writing a new book this week. It wasn't that I had any genius ideas burning in my head. Instead, it was because I was obsessing over this project that I was supposed to be letting rest, and I couldn't seem to force myself to focus on the project I was supposed to be working on. SO...my great idea was to start writing SOMETHING ELSE.
With that (and unfortunately nothing else) in my mind, I started researching How To Create A Plot, and it didn't take long before I found this genius site. Actually, this is a post about outlining your plot, which is a different creature entirely from creating a plot, but it's kind of amazing how the two things intertwine.
|The villain in Chuck|
In a nutshell, Glen Strathy's premise is that the very first thing you need is a Story Goal, which is the thing your main character is trying to accomplish. The second thing you need is a Consequence, which is the negative thing that will happen if the Story Goal is not achieved. Or--important distinction here--what the main character THINKS will happen if the story goal is not achieved.
Step 3, Requirements, is basically a checklist of things that have to happen in order for the reader to feel like your protagonist is getting closer to their goal, and Step 4 is Forewarnings, or events that happen that show that the consequence is also drawing near.
|Voldemort from Harry Potter|
I'm skipping a lot of good stuff here, including some important steps, so if this seems like an interesting way to plot, please go check out the blog post. As I started brainstorming plots using this method (which was not really created for brainstorming plots, I get that. But it works!) I came up with some really interesting ideas. My Story Goal was pretty easy to come up with: My character wants to find a way back to her family. There are a zillion other stories out there with the same Story Goal. What makes it different are the details--Why isn't she already with her family? Where is she? Who is keeping her from being at home?
These are the questions that complicate everything, and soon enough, my mind was stalled in the exact same spot it stalls with every book I've ever written. The villain. It's like I get there, and realize there's a whole other story that needs to get told, or maybe even two. While my characters are busy with the minutia of their lives, there are politics unfolding, wars happening, and a million other things I need to know about if I'm going to create a villain, including my world's history, and his/her life story (if the villain is a person.)
Stories don't need a villain, but they do need a conflict. Your character might conflict with another character (villainous or otherwise), with nature, with society, or with himself. For better or for worse, I'm lumping all of these things into the word 'villain'.
|The Wicked Witch of the West|
Basically, my inability to see through my villain's eyes is what was keeping me from working on my original project, and so I'm shelving this new, shiny idea for now (it's got potential though, so you may see it again someday) and going back to the project I should have been working on all along.
In my experience, plotting my villain's story isn't much fun, but it still needs to be done, and Mr. Strathy's Plot Outline steps seem like a great way to do it. I'll keep you posted. I'm hoping for nothing less than breaking through a wall that's been hindering me for nearly four years now.