The Up-Down Plotting Method

As writers, most of us are familiar with those plotting charts that look like a rollercoaster.  imagesCAO4872C

A good plot takes the characters and the reader on a ride of highs and lows, failures and triumphs, ntil the ultimate pinnacle of the climax.

I’ve been working on roughing out my plot for my Work in Progress.  I’m not a big fan of massive plotting with intricate details written down.  I like those little details to evolve organically as  I write.  I enjoy a more spontaneous creative process where my characters and their lives come “alive” as I write.  I’m a dedicated pantser.

But even the most dedicated pantser can get lost in the wood while writing if we don’t have a direction to point our plot in.  Thus I have developed what I call the Up-Down Plotting MethodIt’s probably similar to what some other writers do.  I do no use oneof those plotting charts however.  I favor a written outline that walks step-by-step through the major Events of the story.

Here’s the basic idea.

  1. First, I make sure I have my characters bascially flushed out, their backgrounds as much as I need, and the details.
  2. Them I make sure and define the overall Story goal and how each character fits with this goal.
  3. Once all this is clear, I begin the process of outlining my Up and Down Events.  An Up or Down Event is in relation to the story goal and the characters.  Up Events bring the story closer to the goal being reached.  Down Events are the opposite, setbacks, loses and failures.
  4. The story can start with an Up Event or a Down Event.  In my WIP, I start with an Up Event which highlights the story goal then I throw in a Down Event that threatens the goal.
  5. As the story goes along, the Ups and Downs should get steeper, the challenges to reach the story goal greater, the loses and wins bigger until the ultimate Up or Down Event that is the climax.
  6. I generally alternate between Up Events and Down Events 1:1 but sometimes I’ll throw 2 Up Events in in a row or 2 Down Events, especially as the climax nears.

Here is a basic idea of what my outline looks like.  I don’t go into too much detail with each Event, just sticking to the main events that affect the story goal.

  • Event #1 (Up) – The heroine is getting ready to set out on an adventure to achieve some goal.  She sets off on her mission with a group of trusty companions.
  • Event #2 (Down) – The heroine’s best friend betrays her and puts the mission in danger.
  • Event #3 (Up) – The heroine completes a mini-quest on her own and reunites with her friend who apologizes for her betrayal.
  • Event #4 (Down) – Massively hung over, the heroine arrives late to her next mission and find herself forced to work with her archenemy who could jeopardize her achieving her ultimate goal
  • Event #5 (Up) – The heroine triumphs in another mini-quest and is one small step closer to rescuing the prince.
  • Event #6 (Down) – An ogre attacks and drags the heroine’s trusty companion away forcing a side mission to rescue the companion.
  • Etc.

My outlines have a bit more detail but this format helps me focus on the story goal and keeping the plot moving in the rollercoaster like up and down.

I have finished plotting out my entire WIP using the Up-Down Plotting Method.  This method works great for romances (hehe) like my WIP and any other fiction genre, I think.  Next up, I plunge into getting past Chapter 3, or as I like to call it, The Beginning of the Middle.

Cheers and kisses,

Heather

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