Dominoes vs a Web

Is your plot linear or more of a web?

How do you see your plot?  Is it a series of dominoes or a web?

I’m a linear thinker.  For anyone who knows me, this may very well be the understatement of the year.  Point me at a goal and step back.  Tell me I can’t have or do what I’ve been focused on and watch me waffle.

This is also how I tend to think about plot.  My character wants something.  Things/people/circumstances get in his way.  There are failures. There is a resolution.

Ta da!

The first night of the retreat, Jennifer Mattson spoke about plot.  She showed us the usual plot diagram — a single line creeping up the page.  But she also showed us how to use a story cloud diagram to work up possible complications and the like for our story.  I looked at this layered, web-like monstrosity and thought, “Poop.”

Linear may work great for a short story or a picture book  but middle grade?  Nope.  My story simply wasn’t complicated enough.  I needed more connections.  I needed a subplot.

Fortunately, by the end of the weekend I was noodling all this over and working some of it out in my head.   If you are a linear thinker, take a look at Shaping the Story by Mark Baechtel.  The story cloud may be a tool that will benefit your work.

Just remember — I didn’t say it was going to be easy.