Friday, October 12, 2012

Nano Plot Tips: The Index Card Methods and Structure Grid

I've been reading up on this idea and have to say that I might give it a try, especially if I run out or through my plot outline too soon (I tend to do this around 25k thinking it should have lasted till 50k) and start pantsing it. Which has failed to reach me the 50k mark on many a frustrating occasions.

What you need:
Index Cards or post its
Space- perhaps lots of it
and if you're feeling exceptionally rambunctious, a cork board

Every chapter needs to have a climax or reach a critical point to help the story along, usually involving either emotional movement (character development or trauma) or plot line movement. As well as every three chapters or so there should be a central climax or point that happens that moves the plot along at larger intervals until you reach the storyline climax and then the one or two chapters to close everything off. Keep in mind plot climaxes usually proceed the romance climax where the characters conclude that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Everyone confused? Then I've succeeded :) More on plot line suggestions later.

Index cards are one of the more effective story planning tools because they allow you to write your scenes out and then easily move things around when you need to. I've tried to do this on a computer and it can get a bit frustrating to go back and forth between pages to try and figure out what's happening or what a character looks like. Plus think of it as literally holding your story in your hands. Think of all the colorful creations you could make, that or the time you'll spend procrastinating writing your story as you design the cards.

I do hate to say it, but I still tend to write out a basic plot line on paper or computer and then transfer everything to the note cards. The plus side, if I had some ideas about what could happen in the plot but couldn't figure out how to write it in, I'd add it a note card to have on hand in case I want to shuffle plot points around or add more complexity to the story, or just plain run out of items to fill a plot section. Then I place my cards out on a surface and start putting them in planned chapter order to see how the scenes play out and get a general idea on the flow of the story. I can then mix, match, shuffle, toss and include any other cards when needed.

What I tend to include on my note cards:
Character descriptions, each on their own, including the villain
Basic chapter outlines, not initially labeled unless I want a bunch of black marks crossing out chapter identifications
About 10 additional cards with random plot events that I may want to experiment with
A death card, that will have a list of names and moments when they were killed, just to keep everything in order
A introduction card, to help me keep track of when I introduced characters, so I don't introduce them twice
And a couple challenge cards

What is a challenge card you ask? A challenge card/s is something you either decide to play around with yourself with your story, or you decide to take up from a fellow nano'er post on the whole challenge idea. I recently read one where you have a character turn blue or purple in your storyline due to a chemical reaction and you later have to use this your benefit in your story. Another was help another character get married, and another was having them consume a really greasy food. You could have someone fall in love with an AI, a really harry man or just waltz in the background of a scene. Challenges can be hard, easy, fun, frustrating or just plain crazy, but they can also help you move your plot along if you've run out of previously planned plot points or just need filler till you reach your next scene.

Challenges can be found on Nanowrimo Forums.

Will you be using note cards this year? Or were you planning on using a different form of plotting assistance. If so, please share!

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