Construction Zone: Plotting on the Fly

Last week as I was thinking out the next chapter for Indelibly Inked, I was feeling a bit…uninspired again, and decided to write out my plotting process rather than just going through it in my head, as normal. I find it amazing how just putting thoughts down on paper can make my brain process them in a different way. 

Anyways, I thought others might be interested in how I plot “on the fly” from scene to scene when I’m not working from an outline (ie, “pantsing” it, like I do for the serial novels). I normally just do this in my head, but if you’re interested, here’s what  the plotting/brainstorming for Chapter 17 looks like “on paper”.

Roll Call (where are the main characters right now):

Adam is worried because Claire didn’t show up in his room, he’s looking for her.

Stacy and David just found Claire’s cell & keys, and are looking for her.

Claire is strapped to a gurney in the hospital basement, and just passed out due to something injected in her thigh after being threatened with her life if she doesn’t forfeit the campaign.

What needs to happen logically:

Claire needs to be found/released and reconnected with the other characters.
– If she continues to be held, the other candidates would all be put under suspicion immediately and publicly, defeating the kidnapper’s purpose. And in my mind, the kidnapper is on the edge of doing other, really bad things to a hostage held longer – not where I want this story to go.

How do we get there (exploring options)?

Kidnapper leaves Claire in the basement.
– A hospital-wide search is called, they eventually find her.
– Claire wakes up alone, figures out how to get free.
– She wakes up and finds that her bonds were removed while she was passed out.

Kidnapper leaves her just outside Adam’s room
– He finds her when he rushes out to look for her.
– He finds her when he gets back from looking for her.
– David & Stacy find her on their way to see Adam

Kidnapper leaves her in the hall somewhere.
– Adam finds her first
– David/Stacy find her first
– They all find her at the same time

Kidnapper leaves her outside the hospital
– A hospital wide-search is called, no one can find her, she wakes up alone/lost
– She’s found in the garden by someone on the search party
– Adam, David or Stacy spot her out one of the hospital windows.

What’s the twist?

The kidnapper left a mark on her body as a message to Claire.

If you read last week’s chapter, you know I didn’t quite get to the “twist” in the story, and rolled it into the poll for this week. Scenes always play out somewhat different than I envision once I start writing, and even though I write pretty concisely, they always require more words than I think they will too. In this case, when I ended the scene it was because I felt a POV shift back to Claire was warranted.

Have you thought about individual scenes before you write them? Is there a process you go through (in your head or otherwise) to plan the next step in the story? Or do you just keep typing, hoping it will all tie together in the end?

4 comments on “Construction Zone: Plotting on the Fly

  1. K.M. Weiland

    Interesting. I fall way over on the outlining side of the line, but my daily writing journal entries look something like this. Even though I have a pretty good idea what needs to happen in each scene, I usually have to hammer out details right before writing it.

  2. Dolly

    I definitely think about how the scene needs to progress. This is not done right at the beginning where I am just trying to figure out the main plot, but when I get to final outline stage, then I need to figure out how things move. Of course this changes – like now when I am adding new scenes – but even there, I think of each individual scene and how it should move ahead.

  3. Carol

    If I use a process, then it must be an unconscious one. I don’t usually give individual scenes much thought before I write them. I do have a good idea of what I want to have happen as a whole, and I think this is what brings everything together by the end.

  4. India Drummond

    I always enjoy hearing about how other writers organise themselves. I use a program called Writers Cafe, that helps you build a timeline and create notecards for what needs to happen in each chapter.