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.
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.