My roadmap: The Plot Wall

Some of you may have seen my Plot Wall on Twitter and some of you have already asked questions. I should explain that this is actually a reverse plot since I wrote the manuscript organically. (The first time I didn’t plot in advance.) Recently, I was hung up for a couple of months & just could not figure out what was wrong & why I couldn’t write. Then it struck me that I didn’t plot this story. I had no roadmap. It was time to go old school on this bitchy manuscript.

This is my process for laying out scenes (using the 4 Act story structure) so I can see everything at a glance while I revise. All the cards on the wall are color coded. I tried to coordinate index card colors with Post It colors. It’s as close as I can get it. I color coordinated it to help me see the action/reaction cycle of each scene’s climax. I only did the climaxes because I don’t have enough wall space to micromanage all the action/reaction cycles. Believe me, I could’ve really micromanaged all of it and it could be much bigger than it is. LOL

Before we begin, here are a couple of resources I found helpful. If you struggle with the action/reaction cycle check out: C.S. Lakin’s website https://www.livewritethrive.com My friend signed up for her Emotional Mastery For Fiction Writers Course and found it very useful. I will eventually save enough to take her course too. Scenes need structure and if you struggle with structuring your scenes, might I suggest “How to Structure Scenes” by K.M. Weiland https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-structure-scenes/

Now that the starting flag is out are you ready to go? I’ll ease out the throttle, give it some gas, and get this motorcycle rumbling down the track. (Thanks for the analogy, Nytrix. I hope you still love me after I get done torturing you.)

On my door, I have things I must remember as I’m plotting. I have cheat sheets I borrowed from a website (sorry can’t remember which one & I forgot to bookmark it) as well as my color codes and my beat sheets from Jami Gold. And of course, can’t do much without my supplies.

Or my important notes.

Action Reaction Cycle
4 Stages of Reaction

Since I had the story already, the first thing I did after I set up my Acts was break the chapters into major scenes and then I wrote a super short synopsis for each scene. I do this stage on white index cards. Eventually, they’ll be covered with a color-coded break down of the climax for each scene. I said it earlier, I could seriously break it down further if I had space, but I’m currently doing that in Scrivener.

Scene Synopses


The color-coding chart on my door is separated into Main Plot, Subplot, & Flags. Yellow stickies with lines are all the changes I want to make as I revise, but you can easily tweak any of this to fit how you work. The index cards & the stickies I tried to keep as coordinated as possible. Both the main plot & the subplot have the same exact coding since my colors are close enough. Flags have their own codes. I didn’t really use them much though so you can probably delete this step.

Color Coding ledger for my wall


If you’re plotting the story before you work on it, then you probably won’t know the action/reaction cycle yet, but since this is a reverse plot, I can find the steps in what’s already written. As I go through my manuscript, I break the scene climax down into its bare bones Action/Reaction cycle.

Once I get all the scene synopses into each act and start my climax breakdowns, you can see already where the thin places are located.

For those plotting an unwritten manuscript, you can use a different coding system for instance: yellow could be what you want to happen; pink could be twists; they could even be for different POVs if you’re writing a multiple point of view story.

Because things can fall off the wall, I also tape them together and write the scene number on the cards in case of catastrophe. When all the Acts are charted, you can see where I need to trim and give it a little umph. For some reason I get hour glass plots instead of a muffin top when I pants.

PlotWall

There are so many different ways to fit the color coding to your writing process. The possibilities are endless. Hope you enjoyed your pit stop in my small corner of the internet. Now open the throttle to your imagination & plot or reverse plot that next manuscript.

Plotting Destruction


I wrote this article because I always see people on Twitter asking for advice about how to plot out their chapters. The method I use won’t work for everyone and you won’t need every section of the worksheet if you use this method, but you’ll find a copy of this simple worksheet at the end of this article that you can download in .doc .docx and .pdf formats. Tweak it to suit your style and what you need for your chapters. Hopefully, my process for plotting will help you in some small way or give you ideas that work best for you.

The scene I’m working on is from Nytrix, my adult superhero prose so forgive me if I don’t give away too much. Without further ado, here is my method for plotting destruction when I have detailed chapters.

I tried pantsing a novel for the first time during the 2017 NaNoWriMo. (My first time doing NaNo too! Can’t wait to do it again.)  Let me tell you, I’m not a pantser & it’s been tough continuing to pants my current WIP. When a story plot festers within me, it’s a linear thing. I come up with a basic idea of the beginning, middle, and end. Then the characters make themselves known, usually in strange ways. I used to use color coded index cards to add plot ideas for chapters, characters, etc, but now I use Scrivener. After NaNo, there have been times when I can’t move past a scene. It just would not flow. Then I realized, “Hey I’m still pantsing this thing”.  You’ve driven off the road and need to adjust course, as Sunny would say. I knew it was time to start plotting chapters individually.

A Twitter writer posted her method for plotting chapters. (If you see this, shout out so I can thank you!) Since plotting is almost a requirement for me, I thought of as many things that might go into any given scene and basing it of what I remembered of her process, I came up with this worksheet. The worksheet has sections for everything I need to include in the chapter from emotions to power words. It becomes a miniature road map to help me visualize the scene better and it helps me know exactly what I want to convey before I start writing. I’m less likely to hit a speed bump at 100 MPH now. LOL.

Preview

Anyway, I was struggling with my big finale scene & for me it came down to being a question of setting. The “where” wasn’t right which caused me to struggle getting words on paper. Keep in mind, I’m using real places in my current WIP. Once I settled on where my finale would take place, I began filling out the sections of my worksheet. Considering how large my setting ended up being, I decided to map out the entire finale, step by step. The first thing I did was draw maps of the setting and let me tell you it’s a big place, I needed a map! There were three maps in total: first floor, second floor with towers, and the grounds. When I finished drawing the maps, I printed them on regular paper and tapped the sections together. The table is 4 foot by 2 foot.

Drawn and ready maps.
Maps laid out on 4 foot by 2 foot table. (Watch out for Godzilla- He likes to bump the map & knock everyone over.)

My next step was to decide on the players on the field. Since I have two different kinds of maps, interior and exterior, I have different types of color coded, labeled Legos for each character. The first set of Lego “people” are going on the maps labeled “First Floor” and “Second Floor”. The protagonist is the blue and white Lego labeled S written on all sides with a sharpie. The antagonist labeled L is the red and white. Yellow Legos are the antagonist’s non-descript goons. I kept them limited to a number and there are 10 ‘goons’ the protagonist has to defeat before she gets to the main antagonist. The two blue with yellow bottom Legos (labeled G & R for character names) are the antagonist’s right hand ‘men’—I say ‘men’ because my main characters are all women. The red, white, and blue Lego labeled FL is the person our heroine must rescue.

One the map labeled “Land Map”, I used white Legos for the protagonists supporting cast, two-piece Legos for cars as well as boat because my setting is on the bay, and the eight-piece Legos for larger vehicles like the tactical units.

Here are all the players on the battleground.

First Floor Map with Legos
Second floor map with Lego players
Full Map with Legos

Now it’s time to play! I move the Lego people around to plot out the actions step-by-step. I note actions with green stickie notes cut into smaller pieces and placed on the map under the numbered Lego people in the place where they start out at the beginning of the scene.

First Floor Map Legos and Stickies
Second Floor with Legos and Stickies
Full map with Legos and Stickies

I’m limited to stickie note colors and I have 3 big maps, two interiors & one exterior. Back to the stickie notes. Green is for the information that represents a step in the action. Pink tells me where the antagonist has taken down an opponent and in one case, the person to rescue. At this point, it can get confusing to distinguish with the stickie colors who the main antagonist is so to distinguish the smaller battles from the final battle between antagonist and protagonist, I used blue stickies instead of green.

It sounds like a lot of work and maybe it is, but it makes plotting so much fun! Look at the action-packed final scene with all the actions laid out in order.

First Floor Final Map
Second Floor Final Map
Land Final Map
Full Set of Final Maps

From here, I put all the ‘fight’ actions into my worksheet where they belong in the setting description itself. It is superhero fiction after all so I like to choreograph all the fight scenes.

Choreographed Fight Moves
Setting

I may have gone a tad overboard with mapping and the worksheet, which ended up being 19 pages long when I was finished, but doing all this work prior to writing has effectively plotted out the entire scene. All that’s left is for me to put my characters into the fray, add their emotions, dialogue, and sensory effects.

As promised, here are the worksheets:

ChapterPlotWorksheet.doc

ChapterPlotWorksheet.docx

ChapterPlotWorksheet.pdf

Thank you for reading. Now go out, plot your own destruction and have fun.



Card 10- Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune

Major Arcana

Hieroglyph: j ; duality

Sigil: Beneficent spirit of Mars

Magic Letter: Alphabet of the Magi

Planet: Pluto

Zodiac Sign: Scorpio

Hebrew Letter: yod

Meaning: Destiny, fortune, outcome, felicity, godsend, special gain or unusual loss, culmination, influences affecting the outcome of a problem, inevitability, unexpected events, course of events from beginning to end.

Reverse Meaning: Failure, ill luck, broken sequence, interruption or inconsistency due to unexpected events, outside influences not contemplated.


Card 09- The Hermit

Hermit

Major Arcana

Hieroglyph: the number 10- no phonetic value

Sigil: Camgel, spirit who’ll give you perfect knowledge of your genius.

Magic Letter: Alphabet of the Magi

Planet: Mars

Zodiac Sign: Aries

Hebrew Letter: teth

Meaning: Council, knowledge, solid prudence, discretion, vigilance, circumspection, self-denial, withdrawal, solitude, esoteric knowledge, tendency to withdraw emotionally, failure to face facts.

Reverse Meaning: Imprudence, hastiness, rashness, prematurity, incorrect advice, failure caused by dullness, over-prudence results in unnecessary delay, immaturity.

Cleopatra’s Flower

If memory serves me right, I saw this legend, myth whatever you chose to call it on History Channel. The show revolved around Alexandria, Cleopatra, & the fall of Egypt. Most people know #Cleopatra was/is one of the most infamous female pharaohs in history. Cleopatra was not only beautiful, she was an intelligent woman with an excellent education, she spoke multiple languages, and was a ferocious negotiator. This woman led armies! Maybe that’s why Marc Antony fell in love with her.

An interesting fact about Cleopatra, she was a toxicologist. Surprise! She studied poison flowers and herbs. Cleopatra tested her poisons on slaves and fallen enemy soldiers. Marc Antony was well aware of Cleopatra’s hobbies. Even though he loved her, he didn’t trust her. Testers would taste his food and drink before every meal.

One night, Cleopatra and Marc were having dinner with friends and a lively discussion ensued. Cleopatra was pained Antony didn’t trust her and told him if she wanted him dead, he would be dead. Antony laughed. Dinner was placed in front of him and the tester, who must have been terrified, did his job. He nibbled the food and sipped from Antony’s chalice. When the tester didn’t die, Antony began eating. A few minutes later, Cleopatra tosses a flower into his cup. Antony lifts his drink, Cleopatra knocks the chalice from his hand, and tells him she could have killed him at any time she desired. No one knows what toxic flower she used, it’s lost to history. But this beautiful, dangerous woman will forever be remembered.
 

Card 08- Justice

Justice

Major Arcana

Hieroglyph: kh, sieve

Sigil: Unknown

Magic Letter: Alphabet of the Magi

Planet: Saturn

Zodiac Sign: Capricorn

Hebrew Letter: cheth

Meaning: Harmony, balance, righteousness, virtue, honor, virginity, sincere desire, good intentions, well-meaning actions, advice, self-satisfaction, poise, impartiality, capability of perceiving temptation and avoiding evil. Favorable response to the good nature of others.

Reverse Meaning: Bias, false accusations, bigotry, severity, intolerance, abuse.


Card 07- The Chariot

The Chariot

Major Arcana

Hieroglyph: pa; the fly

Sigil: Zadkiel, good spirit will find treasure for invoker.

Magic Letter: Alphabet of the Magi

Planet: Neptune

Zodiac Sign: Pisces

Hebrew Letter: zayin

Meaning: Adversity, possibly already overcome. Turmoil, vengeance, success, voyage or journey, escape, perplexity, need for attention to details, urgency to gain control of one’s emotions, balance of physical and mental power brings glory.

Reverse Meaning: Defeat, failure, sudden collapse of plans

Card 05- The High Priest

The High Priest

Major Arcana

Hieroglyph: H; no determinative value

Sigil: Charcoal

Magic Letter: Alphabet of the Magi

Planet: Mercury

Zodiac Sign: Virgo

Hebrew Letter: He

Meaning: Ritualism, ceremonies, mercy, humility, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, inspiration, alliance, compassion, servitude, inactivity, overt reserve, conformity, a religious or spiritual leader. At times this person is unable to adapt to  new circumstances and changing conditions. A person with a sense of historical importance.

Reverse Meaning:  Over-kindness, foolish, exercise of generosity, susceptibility, sensitive, frailty, impotence, unorthodoxy, renunciation.


Card 06- The Lovers

The Lovers

Major Arcana

Hieroglyph: f; snail

Sigil: Beneficent spirit of Mercury

Magic Letter: Alphabet of the Magi

Planet: Venus

Zodiac Sign: Taurus

Hebrew Letter: vau

Meaning: Love, beauty, perfection, harmony, unanimity, trials overcome, trust,  honor, beginning of a romance, infatuation, deep feelings, optimism, freedom of emotions, struggle between sacred and profane love, trials, yearning, a meaningful affair

Reverse Meaning: Failure to meet the test, unreliability, separation, frustration in love and marriage, interference, fickleness, unwise plans.