What can you learn from creating plot— maybe one thing is the emotional bang you feel when you fire the last point into the story and this final act reveals what all the unresolved previous actions had to do with anything.
Authoring a plot, using your imagined story-making powers to build a list of seemingly unrelated actions is not a skill that can be acquired by thinking about things. You have to test your theory, you have to build the plot, write the story, then see for yourself how well or poorly the thing holds up.
Some long fiction writers don’t work from a plan, that seems brave in my mind, instead writers follow the truth of each scene to the author’s sense of truthfulness, this process culminates in some previous unviewable epiphany once the sequence is built and by force of the plot the characters fall into line with the truth you’ve made of them.
If there is any fun at all, for my money it is fitting the plot together by doing the work, seeing how your instincts for a good narrative have served you, the little tickle in the mind for a workable ending is tangible, a great ending to a story is emotionally sublime, a personal best, a summit to be savored.
When I build a plan, it comes together at the outset in a jumble. There are character sketches, settings and sequences listed by cold blood. I like to use a large sketchpad and doodle elements then draw lines between that join the elements into what I believe are relationships. The relationship a character has with a car, house, or mountain. The relationship a liar has with the person being deceived. If you are ordered by a superior to carry out an action and you disobey your orders how does that relate to what your character has done, is doing and plans to do—
As the plan reaches a certain richness, once enough elements have been defined, you never have it all, you only have enough clues to go on, you may glimpse a promising resolution, when the thing really pops, when I’m really into the thing, when I dig it and think it the perfect fit, I can double down on the plan and because I’ve done the work can sell myself on the story.
I work backwards from the ending at this point. I work knowing that what comes out of my characters mouth in the first scene has everything to do with what happens in the last. Ok, now everything has an exception built into a story, and one matter that must be tested again and again is the balance of suspense and surprise. A good plan needs to be plausible yet uncertain, possible but not bulletproof. So, a good plan may require some obfuscation, you’ll want to hide clues, misdirect, even dare I admit this defy your characters predictability, your central character goes against the nature you have captured in the tale.
Our world’s ongoing climate emergency isn’t going to get better soon. Players on the world’s stage continue to act in their own interests and unwilling to act in the best interests of humankind. This is a terrific entry point to write comedy. Finding the funny is discovered in the weaknesses we discover in our characters, and the inevitable sorrows that fuel these misguided characters generate can be of benefit in our fight to save ourselves. Laughing at the folly of certain powerful special interests relaxes our minds and the epiphany in that laugh allows the idea itself to gently enter our imagination, allowing us to see with clarity the truth of what we are up against. Folly when you are not caught up in it can be fun to witness.
I’ve got this idea. Nightclub owner has a house along the ocean. For many climate related reasons his home on the cliff is being eroded until the home is uninhabitable, it eventually falls into the ocean. Same time at his nightclub are all kinds of equally displaced patrons. Immigrants coming up from S America because of drought, musical acts traveling to play at the club suffering climate related events along the way. There may be delays getting to the gig because of storms. There can be heatwaves, wildfires, and floods. You get the idea. We are learning more and more that climate events are inescapable, it is a global event, it is wreaking havoc everywhere— this inescapable element I see as funny, and worth building a story around. I want my central character to formulate an escape from everything, until the last scene when the one least unforeseen climate event undoes their best laid plans. This is a lifeless, early elemental list, and it is the flesh hung onto these bones that makes a story come alive. Early story development is a lifeless, painful trek—
You can play the game yourself, or you can wait and enjoy, hate or not be moved one way or another by what I come up with. That’s the thing right there, for most doing a story about such things is optional, it doesn’t feel like we have to do it if we don’t want to, and then there are some of us that feel the project is an absolute must do, we literally have to do this work to be happy. That’s a hell of problem right there—