Alternative ways to plan a story

Good day to everyone! My name is Lottie and I’m going to start writing some articles for this blog! 

Personally, I am a plantster when I write, which means I do some planning, but struggle to create a fully fleshed out plan before I start writing. For my first blog, I thought I would introduce some alternative ways to plan and formulate your ideas that have helped me in the past. 

I want to begin by saying that every writer’s mind is slightly different, so it may take a while to find a method of planning that works for you, or you might be fine without any planning! Either way, these suggestions are just here to help.

Characters

A problem that many writers face is making their characters realistic, and making them come across as living, breathing people who the readers will root for. One way you can combat this without planning as such, (although you can absolutely do that too!) is to write scenes that include your character. They might be completely irrelevant to the story you are writing, but could reveal something about your character that you hadn’t considered before. 

You could put your character in a situation that you might have experienced, they could be doing something completely different, or they could just be standing at a bus stop having a conversation with a stranger. You don’t have to write much; just enough for you to work out the features of your character’s personality that are hard to plan directly. And don’t edit!! Follow your thoughts and let your creativity flow!

It could be in first person, it could be in third person. It could include other characters, or it could just be the character alone. You decide! But focus on their internal feelings and reactions to the situation at hand, what they say and do about it, and any mannerisms or habits that could influence them. And when you’ve written it, you don’t have to include it in your story. If, when you get back to writing your story, you find it easier to write about this character and understand them, then it’s worked!

An alternative to this would be to write the character’s backstory. Again, you may not want to include this in your story, but it can still help you to develop even more about the character and plot. 

This method also (especially!) works well with side characters, or characters you may not have spent much time getting to know. Even if they don’t play a big role, putting them in a few short, unrelated scenes will help you to write them as people in their own right, with thoughts and feelings just like the main character. 

I personally really enjoy this, and sometimes use this just to rekindle my creativity and motivation. Sometimes, being able to start from zero with a ready-made character is quite freeing. And you may get a brand new idea for a story on the way! 

Plot

When starting a story with an idea, it can be challenging to build up a plot, particularly when subplots and character development are taken into account. Some people like to write out a detailed plan, and work from there (and that is fine if that works for you!), but I know I often struggle to do this from nothing.

Sometimes, just starting to write can help. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for the entire story, but if you have an idea for a scene, even if you want it to be near the end of the story, just write it! Make a note of where you’d like it to be, but don’t be afraid to just start! Nothing has to be permanent, or start off perfect in the right order, and it might help you to get ideas for other events or scenes. 

Another alternative would be to make some notes, possibly as bullet points, that cover the main sections of the plot. Getting a beginning, middle and end is essential, however complex the plot and subplots. It is important to know where you want your story to start, and instead of thinking about the end as a completely different part, ask yourself what has changed since the beginning. This might help you focus on character development.

If you struggle to organise your ideas, get them down on paper first. They don’t have to be in an order, because you can cut them out and move them around! I like to use flashcards for this so that when I find an order of events that works, I have space to add any extra notes that I may need. And then I can stack them up in order and get writing!

I hope these helped, and remember: writing isn’t easy. Wherever you are up to is brilliant!

Stay safe,

6 thoughts on “Alternative ways to plan a story

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