Like the magnet on the YAedge mirror says “I chose the road less traveled. Now, where the hell am I?” There’s a reason we have that phrase featured front and center on our blog graphic.
I’m not the best plotter. I admit it. I usually wing my first draft and end up tossing half of the book because it wasn’t focused, or buried the real story under fun-to-write, but ultimately useless tangents. Kinda like that sentence…lol…
Keeping this in mind, imagine how I mentally cringed when my writer bud, Kitty Keswick and I decided to write a YA paranormal series together. That’s right, an entire series! The premise and characters ROCK, however, so there was no way I was bailing on the project. But the reality of choreographing the major/minor plotlines, developing characters over multiple books, creating backstory and then planning to leak that information in controlled bits throughout the series – holy, good God! And what’s more, we’re writing separate books, in sequence according to a strict timeline, with some unique characters, but a lot of them appear in all the books.
We had to create character cards for each major and minor character – physical descriptions, likes, dislikes, friends, enemies and throughlines/motives. We HAVE to know each other’s plots/characters as well as if we were watching Buffy season 6, for the millionth time. (Love the Buffy/Spike sex, seriously.)
But wow. Talk about a plotting nightmare.
Then I had a major brainwave. If we have to know our stories like our favourite TV shows, then damn it - we’d plot our series like a TV show. Each book would be an episode, each episode would build to its own resolution, yet still contribute to the overall story arc – leading to el grand finale in the final book.
Okay – that’s awesome. But how do you plot a TV series? I don’t really know how the studio guys do it, but after reading up on screenwriting, storyboards, index cards, beat sheets, etc. I’ve been able to wrap my noggin around the basics – enough at least to figure out a formula for our series.
It goes like this. Establish the different plots, separate them between overall story arc scenes and individual episode scenes – then mesh them together using the Three Act system (Act I – setup, Act II – conflict, Act III – climax).
So each episode, or book, comes down to a formula something like this:
- Plot A: major plot points that have to happen for the overall story arc of the series (30% of book)
- Plot B: major plot points for each episode and its own main characters (70% of book).
- Add a beat sheet of key interactions between characters that cross over from different episodes and key resolutions that must occur to keep the reader satisfied.
NOTE: as we get closer to the end of the series, the percentage of Plot A increases substantially. This keeps the momentum going, driving the story ever onward.
We now have a six book series, in sequence, with a record of how much of the overall story arc to focus on in each book - building the series to its dramatic end. (2 books for Acts I, II and III)
Cool, eh? And I never would have thought of it if it weren’t for the boob tube. ;) Is this close to how studio writers approach plotting out a series? Who knows, but it’s working for us. Now for the fun part – finishing the first drafts for this monster.
Want more information on writing scripts? Check out Script Frenzy (a writing competition, but the site has great tips)
Questions for Aprilynne Pike!
7 years ago