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Submitted on
June 12, 2013
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How to Plot Like a Grim

Journal Entry: Wed Jun 12, 2013, 9:00 PM
In ten simple steps, you too can plot like a Grim.  ;P

1. Get an idea

This can be a brief snippet of dialogue. Or an ending that just seems perfect.  Sometimes it's just the concept of what I'd like to see a character go through.  I write that down.  Usually it doesn't see the cold light of day for at least a couple months, but when I've thought about it long enough and can't seem to get the idea out of my head, that's when I sit down and start plotting things out a bit.

2. Work out the basic plot

Now that I've got the idea, I need to work out the basic details.  But how do I do that?  Well, I write it down.  Then I think about the different angles to get to that idea.  I write those down.  If it's dialogue, who's talking? What do they feel? Who are they talking to?  If it's a snippet of a scene, who's in the scene? Why are they there? What are they doing? What's going on outside of that scene?

From there, I construct the basics of a story.  The beginning, the conflict, major arc of events, the climax and finally the conclusion.  Just brief details, nothing massively plotted.  At least, not just yet.

And that's the bare bones of the story.  Honestly, one could technically start writing from this, but I don't.  Not even close.

Basic Plotting by GrimFace242

3. Create the characters

With the story basics written down, I now need to populate the story with characters.  I start with the main character/hero, antagonist/villain/obstacle to overcome, and then move to the secondary characters (sidekicks, evil minions).  

The main character gets the most attention, and is given at the very least a back story/history.  I need to know how they got to the start of the story.  Same goes for the antagonist.  Once I know every dirty little detail about them, I move onto the secondary characters.

They don't get the same amount of attention, but I figure out the basics (how they look and where they're from).  There's no need to go into grand detail unless it's something that's important to the plot.

4. Plot Sheets!

First things first.  Before getting into too much detail, I write down what I already know and have plotted.  Each scene getting it's own sheet.  Then they're arranged chronologically.  Knowing how I want the story to progress, I start filling in the blanks.

Many times, I'll plot out scenes that I later cut, but at this point, I'm trying to get the story down on paper.  My sheets include the characters that are in the scene, the mood of the scene, significance of the scene, obviously what happens, as well as any vital information received.  

The mood allows me to put the characters into a proper frame of mind when I sit down the write the scene later.  The significance is necessary, because if I can't come up with one, the scene is obviously not needed.  It also helps later on when I need to cut scenes out.  Finally the vital information can be anything.  It can be the main character's realization on why they want to fight the antagonist or the key to a puzzle he couldn't figure out.  Sometimes there only one bit of information I put here but other times there's a short list.  It all depends on the scene.

Plot Sheets by GrimFace242Character Motivation Sheet by GrimFace242

5. Can't forget the character sheets

This is actually something I do while I'm filling out plot sheets.  It's easy enough to fill in the information I already know about my characters, but as I work through the plot, I often change things about my characters to make it better suit the story.  I could go into a long winded explanation on how I fill in characters sheets, but it's a whole lot easier to just point you in the direction of my Guide on using them.

Character Sheets by GrimFace242 A Guide to Character SheetsAlmost as soon as they were invented, people have been feuding over the effectiveness of character sheets.  Some say they are godsends and they couldn't possibly create characters without them.  Others say they only create flat characters and there's absolutely no reason why any writer should need to know the smallest and most minute details that character sheets call for.  And then there are the writers that don't know which side of the debate they should listen to.
The easiest answer to that question is it's a personal decision that every writer needs to make for themselves.  But before you make that decision, maybe you should know how they work and the benefits you can gain from them.
You see, when used correctly, sheets can really assist an author in keeping the facts about their world and characters straight.  Otherwise, on page ten little Anne has green eyes, but on page thirty-two they change to blue, and miraculously enough on page fifty-five they're brown or back to green.  

6. Figure out what drives the characters

In other words, what motivates your characters to do the things that they do?  Because without motivation, there really isn't a story.  Unlike Character Sheets, the motivational sheets need to be filled out with as much detail as possible.

Obviously, I don't fill one of these out for every character.  The main character, antagonist and some secondary characters each get a sheet.  At this point, if I can't come up with a strong enough reason for my main character to go through the trials of the story, then I need to go back and rethink my plot.

Character Motivation Sheet by GrimFace242

7. Research – No way around it

It has to be done.  There is always some aspect of a story that I don't have personal knowledge to back up my writing.  That's when I hit the library and nag a couple librarians for a few hours.  If I'm writing in a period piece, I need to learn social norms for that time, dress, linguistics, etcetera.  And I absolutely refuse to rely on Wikipedia.  It just doesn't have all the answers.  I take my laptop and phone to the library.  If I'm not checking the books out to take home and scan, I'll grab a picture of a couple pages, or jot down notes in a word document.

If I'm unable to find the information I need at the library (which has happened, not everything can be found in a book), then I start looking at professionals.  I'll contact college professors, or call up a local group/club/business that's an expert in the field.  If I need to find out the ins and outs of horses and how a stable runs, I'm not going to get the correct knowledge from a book, but a local farm is the perfect place to start.  Just remember to be courteous.  They're doing you a favor.

8. Grab References for EVERYTHING

Now that I've got the plot and characters hammered out, and I have all my research done.  I need to start building the world and it's people.  Hunting down visual references is fun, but tedious.  Using dA, stock image sites, and even Google, I start collecting character references.  I want to have a set of pictures I can rely on to bring me back to that character.  What they look like.  What clothes they wear.  Even references for how they'd interact with other characters or how they'd hold their cigarette.  Maybe they have a special piece of jewelery that is crucial to the plot and I'll need to recall it quite often.  Hair styles are a big one too.  Especially for female characters that might change their style throughout the story.

Along with characters I also want references for the places in my story.  Images that at a quick glance I can set myself inside that room and start writing about it.  Maps also come in handy here.  A map of the town, the layout of an often used building or an entire world map may be required if you're writing an epic fantasy.  

Maps by GrimFace242 Places References II by GrimFace242 Place References by GrimFace242 Character References by GrimFace242

9. Build the Binders

I have three binders for every lengthy story I write.  One each for characters, plot and places.  It keeps me organized and is an easy reference when I need to check on something.  I use binders mainly because they can be rearranged a lot easier than computer files.  Once again, I have guide already written on how to build your binders.

5 Steps to Organize Your NovelWhat You'll Need:
:bulletblack: A basic story idea
:bulletblack: Printer (preferably laser) with plenty of paper
:bulletblack: Pens
:bulletblack: Three Ring Binders (2) with separating tabs
Build Your World and Characters
For most writers, this comes naturally.  If you're having some issues, there are plenty of tutorials, guides, aids and groups available for assistance.  For the purpose of this guide, you should have your world built and at the very least your main characters devised.  Having secondary characters planned will get you bonus points!
Print Character and Plot Sheets
Each character should have their own sheet (keep the backs blank, they're a grand place to keep extra notes and page references).  It's not necessary that you fill out every single line of the character sheet.  Fill out only what is necessary for the character/plot.  Feel free to add to the sheet as your write, too.  The

10. Start Writing

My process may not work for everyone, and I'll never say that it's the perfect process.  But it is the perfect process for me.  Every once and awhile I've chatted with others about how I plot, and it's helped some have a more disciplined approach to plotting and others have told I'm nutters and should be committed for my OCD.
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dragoeniex Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2014
This both helps and intimidates me. :P I've never done a long  (more than 4,000 word) story, but the latest idea feels like it would be better suited to novel length. Now I've got to stop being lazy and plan/characterize in detail, keep track of things, and describe a mostly-consistent world. I'm a bit nervous.

On another note! If you'd like an example of a story that /does/ give details for many, many secondary characters, I recommend Naoki Urasawa's "Monster." Manga or anime- it's apparently a very faithful adaptation. The story is mostly realistic, set in Germany around the time the Iron Curtain came down. (Not the plot, but it does influence things.) The cast is enormous, with everyone having a unique face, personality, and story. ... Ignoring a couple of cut-outs near the beginning, that is.

The story is also really complex. *wonders how the author kept track of it all*

Any character-laden stories you'd recommend? I tend to favor those. :P So take my suggestion with a grain of salt.
GrimFace242 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014   Writer
I hope this works for your adventure.  Or portions of it.  I would never suggest anyone take on my insanity full force.  I'm just a very organized person and so this works for me.

I never got into Manga or Anime.  Yes, I'm an oddball.  I know this.

I tend to read things that aren't filled up with large casts.  But then I tend to read a lot of older work.  Think period drama.  Which does usually have a decent character list, but tends to focus around a small group.
dragoeniex Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014
Haha. Portions, at least, should be very helpful. ^_^ Nothing wrong with staying organized.

And hey, it's not odd. (Or if it is, I can't call you on it. I've never seen a full Star Wars movie, the Titanic, etc, etc.)

That makes sense. I haven't read a lot of period dramas, and honestly... Monster is about as close as I've come. :P I have been meaning to check into some, though. Looking at how other people slip their stories into another time can only help my understanding of world-building.
Tehya-Ninawi Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This. Is. PERFECT. My biggest problem is I LOSE things while I write. I'm bad about doing everything on the computer, and then something happening to said computer, and I lose my files. I actually lost a whole novel this way. A binder would DEFINITELY help, not to mention how happy it would make my inner OCD Grammar Nazi...
GrimFace242 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2014   Writer
Binders make everything easier.  At least for me.  I want it to be organized.  It's also an easy thing to grab and run with if you're going away somewhere and have quiet time.  I keep hard copies of damn near everything I write.  I've lost too much to dead hard drives.
Tehya-Ninawi Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I know what you mean!! I tried using this method on the project I'm just starting, and I have to say, this is the most productive I've ever been!! I'm usually a panster, but this makes plotting fun!
GrimFace242 Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2014   Writer
See, I wanna try pantsing, but I don't think I could do it.
Tehya-Ninawi Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Haha and for me, planning is always the hardest part. I tend to get carried away... ^^;
HEROCARYS Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
WOW. This makes me wanna actually write more on my stories. I'm a lazy writer, I get the first chap done and plot it all out but never type it up. I think I'll look at this when I need to get some real writing done. I wanna be a writer when I'm older so yah, I need to be able to write on a whim and keep going XD I usually write up story ideas and put them in my email where they pile up XD Thanks dude!
GrimFace242 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014   Writer
You're very welcome.  My process is a bit crazy, but hopefully you might be able to take a couple things from it.
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