Connect the Dots, La-la-la-la-la!


In preparation for the NaNo I’m outlining among other things for Shade 2. I have to ask myself questions like WHY? HOW COME? WHAT FOR? And so on.

I have a major plot point I want to get to and from their out it’s fairly plotted. But all the before that, I’m trying to forge some kind of sense out of it. After all…

In storytelling, logic is retroactive.
-Robert McKee, Story

But even if it is retroactive, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. And I’m not complaining… mostly… but was just curious to know any techniques any of you have out there when you’re throwing together your story. I know some of you pantsers will say, “Ba! Outline shmoutline. Just write!” And oh, I intend to. But surely even ye pansters have a few ideas about connecting dots in the heat of the moment.


When I feel like something isn’t working, I stop and ask myself what the motivation of the characters is. Heroes, villains and secondaries alike. Sometimes I’ve found it really helps if you know what the villain is after, because then you can balance it with how the hero would react if they knew or when they know, etc.

I’m constantly asking myself: what is to be gained in this scene? And sometimes I write out in margins the arc I want a character to take. Perhaps they start off really good, but then tread toward the dark side which prepares them for the climax of choosing good or evil. Stuff like that.

And sometimes I pretend I’ve killed my darlings and left them in the dumpster across the street. If I CANNOT ABSOLUTELY use the plot line I just came up with, what’s Plan B. Sometimes this will show me Plan A was really the best plan and to stop doubting myself. And sometimes this shows me new pathways to try that turn out better. And more often than not Plan A and B get morphed into Plan C because I like elements from both.


Sometimes plot flows like I’m tuned into some cosmic writing spectrum flowing through the universe and I can hardly keep up with the ideas spilling out of me. And other times I’m forced to take the time to connect some dots. But many a writer’s conference has taught me when you come to those places where you’re struggling, when the dots aren’t so easy to find, that’s often when you’re on the cusp of something fantastic.

I’ve found that to be true in my case many times. So I’m thinking, thinking, and thinking some more. (Is there really any other way to get things done?)

But I still want to know, so if you’ve got ideas, spill them now.

What do you do when you have difficult plot dots to connect? Any techniques you use or have heard of that you recommend?

18 thoughts on “Connect the Dots, La-la-la-la-la!

  1. I take a look at subplots and characters to see if there are crossed wires. Occasionally, it helps to look at the previous sections for accidental foreshadowing and look at future ideas to see if they have the clue. It sounds very much like I do a scavenger hunt tactic to solve stuff like this.

  2. I can definitely empathise with this. When I was writing WTCB2, I had the same problem that I knew the big conflict, the antagonist and protagonist’s goals, but the path there didn’t run flat. Even when I give an outline, I/the characters always seem to diverge from it. But book2 is completely different flavour to book1, so I’ll have to see what it looks like when I get around to finishing typing it up.

    I have to say, however, I can’t offer any advice but to sit and think. Get into Plan C mode.

  3. When I am stuck, I usually go do something else. Sometimes, it’s just household chores. Many of my great ‘aha’ moments have come from washing the dishes. Other times, it is work on another creative project or story. Pulling my attention away for a bit allows my sub-conscious to ply through various scenarios and come up with the solution.

    Sometimes, it also takes thinking. I have soundtracks to all of my stories, and I find it helps to put on a song that evokes the core of a character or place or scene – I think of it as returning to center, and remembering where the idea began from. Re-centering and refocusing often helps. Then, pushing forward just a bit will often smooth out the problems.

  4. I get frustrated, play a couple games of spider solitaire, and then take a nap. Surprisingly, sometimes that helps. Other times, it just wastes the rest of my day…I’m not sure I’d recommend my method. πŸ˜‰

  5. I am a bit of a pantser but I am attempting NaNo this year and so have been planning. I found that if i wrote down questions then more would follow and therefore fill in the blanks, today i have been asking myself about the climates on the world i have begun to create and next it will be working on exactly who the characters are. I don’t usually plan so i’ve just been jotting ideas down when they come and always trying to have more questions written down that i will subconsciously be thinking about as I go about life πŸ™‚

    • I think as a pantser you could do a lot of what you’ve been saying, writing about the world and the characters. Know as much as you can about them, their likes, dislikes, goals, fears, etc. Then you’ve at least got well-fleshed out characters and setting even if the plot needs to remain murky because that’s how you work. Sounds like you’re on the right track. πŸ™‚

        • Yes. Write it like a bio in a way. And this is a great place to include backstory (so it doesn’t necessarily end up in your draft). I would include physical description. I might even search out pictures of actors or models or people online that you think look most like your character. Then you have a visual to stare at that’s not just in your head when describing. You can do a pinterest board of all the stuff, not just people, but pictures of places or things. Okay, but back to the character description.

          Write what happened in their childhood that is motivating them now. If they always fight bullies, is it because they were bullied? If they’re terrified of spiders, write a brief summation of the incident that caused it. Write their hopes and dreams and why they are the character you chose for their part in the story. Write down how they are at the beginning of your story and how you would like them to be at the end of it. (Then in your outline if you like or here, you can write down ideas of things that will get them from beginning to end. Like if they’re cowardly, and at the end brave, what things might happen that makes that change).

          Do the same thing for villains and important secondary characters. Villains have motivations too, at least good ones do. Give them a backstory so you have that to refer to whenever they’re making decisions (this goes for any character).

          Find some strong verbs to describe each character. Like: strong, heroic, shy, manipulative, etc. This should be fun, because it’s kind of like writing, because you get to create backstory. Odds are most of it won’t show up in the novel directly, but it will show up in the sense that your characters won’t be flat. You’ll have reasons for everything.

          Btw, we should be NaNo buddies. I’m OsakaJae. πŸ˜€

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s