A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Backwards in Time

Yes, I know, some of the readership may think the title of this entry refers to my not posting often enough; point taken.  But on with the show, as they say.
Once in a while (OK, more than that, actually), writers find themselves in situations in which they know where they want to go but have no idea how to get there.  Plotting out your story may often start with a great opening, and knock-out ending, and nothing in between.  Putting together a rough outline with just the basics is the best way to fill in the gaps and help the writer move the plot along.  Obviously this doesn't give the necessary details, but if you can cast your writer's headlights down the murky road, sometimes you can see your way along, and those little nuggets of plot and character will be reflected in the glow.
But other times, all the outlining in the world won't help, and the story between the beginning and the end just won't surface.  Now what?
One helpful device is to plot the story in reverse; start from that knock-out ending and take one step at a time back from it, asking yourself at each point "how did I get here?", or "what causes this to happen?".  It's tricky, and if  you've never done it, it may seem a strange thing, to look at a story in reverse.  Obviously your ending has to be a bit more thought-out than "they lived happily ever after".  The true ending of the story, the resolution of the plot, will come before the final page; and if you know that ending, going in reverse will sometimes lead you back to the beginning.
And that's another thing; if you don't have an end to your story before you set out to write it, you could have the longest book ever written.  Few writers will begin writing before they have at least hashed out the basics of the plot, the "encounter, conflict, resolution" I've talked about in previous blog entries.  If you have a story idea, make sure you have a way to resolve it before you put fingers to keyboard.
I'll talk a bit more about the mechanics of this style in the next entry.  And I promise I'll be more timely in getting back to the future. 
Hey, what a catchy phrase...

1 comment:

Greg Gildersleeve said...

Great advice, Denny.

I've used the "plot-in-reverse" strategy before, and it does work.

Another strategy that helps me is to focus on the emotional tenor of the story. How do I want the reader to feel (or respond or think) at the end of the story? Knowing this helps keep some plot details fresh for me while still providing direction.