Ah, plotting. The bane of my life. And the joy of some writers. I hate plotting, but I need to know where to go when I’m writing, so I definitely need it. Initial skeleton-drawing is fairly easy, but it’s the branching out that’s so much harder. The roots are easy to take hold. The trunk grows without much trouble. Branches and leaves require the sacrifice of several internal organs before they form.
A few people in the past have asked me how I plot. I haven’t found my own style of plotting yet and have experimented with different ways of plotting over the past few novels I have written. So here it is: how I plotted Rise of the Vengeful Dragon.
To plot RotVD, initially named ‘Essence of Gisella’ as a starting chapter for a story contest, I looked to this, on PublishingCrawl: how to write a synopsis.
- Opening image: An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
Aerith was five years old when the dragons first fought, which resulted in the death of her family’s dragon, Gisella.
- Protagonist Intro: Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.
Rescued by the baker during the battle, Aerith witnesses the death of her mother by the hands of Daedalus, a powerful baron from another dragon family, who then seek her death and stole the Essence of Gisella so that it might never be revived.
- Inciting incident: What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.
Seeing the Essence in Daedalus’s hands, Aerith then swore she would one day revive Gisella and avenge her family.
- Plot point 1: What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Ten years on, Aerith, now called Ariadne, is part of a group of survivors called The Resistance, a secret underground civilisation in a world where the balance has long been lost as the dragons continue to fight. During one of the raiding missions, she is called to by the Essence under a trance, but fails to retrieve it. Her behaviour is noticed by a team member, who later betrays her to Daedalus’s men when the safety of The Resistance is compromised.
- Conflicts & character encounters: Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.
Ariadne manages to escape her confines and steals the Essence back, killing several guards under Gisella’s instructions along the way. Using Daedalus’s daughter as hostage, she escapes. She departs for Wyverin, the City of Dragon Seers, where she hopes to gain information to revive Gisella.
- Midpoint: What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 360 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.
The Seers tell her: in order to revive a dragon or keep a dragon in their power, one must sacrifice a Draconian firstborn or oldest child. Ariadne finds out the reason for her mother’s death, which was reluctance to kill her own child to sustain Gisella, and realises she has to kill Daedalus’s daughter to bring Gisella back.
- Winning seems imminent, but…: What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.
Daedalus confronts her on the day she plans to sacrifice his daughter and reveals the true villain: Gisella’s corruption, which has been tainting the dragons over the years and sustained by Ariadne’s mother blackmailing other Draconian families for their off-springs. The leader of The Resistance supports his claim, knowing Ariadne trusts him. Driven to the brink of madness by Gisella’s increasingly furious demands, the flashbacks of suppressed childhood memories, and the apparent betrayal by the leader she knew well, Ariadne kills the daughter and Gisella is brought back to life.
- Black moment: The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?
Ariadne continues to be plagued by the memories as Gisella’s corruption spreads to the other dragons. The world’s chaos continues. Daedalus nurses her back to health and helps her come to terms with her mother and Gisella’s actions, as well as her own; he bears her no grudges, as her mother was also driven to the same madness.
- Climax: What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?
The remaining Draconian families band together and persuade the remaining uncorrupted dragons to put Gisella down. Their manpower and the dragons are no match for Gisella’s corruption, which manage to darken even the ‘good’ ones.
- Resolution: Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?
As the only one empowering Gisella and the trigger for its return, Ariadne realises she has to die in order for it to fall. She makes peace with everyone and commits suicide.
- Final image: What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?
Gisella falls and its corruption ceased. With the last remaining member of its Draconian family gone, she will never be revived. Jason laments the loss of a girl who was corrupted by the very thing she was striving for and blames himself for over-protecting a headstrong girl blinded by vengeance, but is grateful for her selflessness and bravery that saved the world.
Small things were changed along the way since the writing commenced. Next blog post will be the ‘finalised’ version of the plot, with extra bits added in, I started writing.
How do you guys plot?