A few words on plotting…

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So I’m motivated to write a short post on plotting, as it’s an issue I’m noticing in some books and, of course, in the TV shows of the moment.

Plotting is important. Of course it is. As a writer, I think it’s beneficial to have a rough idea of plot points before you write anything fictional.

But the plot should never drive the story. It is the characters who should always drive your story, and if that means changing your plot as you write, then so be it.

We’ve all been there. We’re getting into a book, enjoying the characters and then BAM! The characters do something so at odds with their personality that it jolts you right out of the story. As a result, you get a gaping plot hole and the story comes off as contrived and disingenuous.

An example: I was watching Blindspot last week (my favourite new show). The setting is a reclusive, armed community in the US. Our heroes pile out of an SUV to arrest a suspect. It becomes clear the situation is dangerous. But, instead of getting back into the armoured SUV and getting the hell out of dodge, our highly trained FBI agents flee into a house to seek shelter, giving the bad guys time to disable their SUV and STEAL THEIR WEAPONS, so the FBI agents have to enjoy a game of unarmed cat and mouse through the woods to get out of there. Sounds like the actions of highly trained FBI agents to you? I think not. It was a real shame, because it was an easy fix.

It’s obvious the writer wanted a certain plot point to occur, and has twisted the characters to fit. It’s like trying to shove your ass into jeans that are four sizes too small–it ain’t gonna go well, and nobody wants to see that.

When I write by books, my first and only rule is to stay true to my characters. And if that means that I can’t include a certain plot line in the book that I hoped, then I don’t include it. Put simply, if it’s not logical, or against the personality of the character you have so carefully cultivated, don’t do it.

I’ve written seven books and one script so far in my career and not a single one of my stories has ended up where I thought they’d end up before I started writing them. My characters have all taken on their own lives, stories, motivations and goals, and they have driven the stories from there. And every story has become far better for it.

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