The Plotting Wall

This was my writing nook earlier this evening: ambient, cozy, uber-organized & highly functional. But that focal wall behind my laptop was looking a bit empty. Too empty, in fact, with me being so close to beginning the first draft of Phreak Show. So I printed out some of my OneNote plotting info and turned that blank wall into this:

Now I have a visual reference for the major elements: call to adventure, refusal of the call, crossing the threshold, plot points, pinch points, mid-story twist, climax, etc . There are also setting notes, conflict opportunities, specific scenes, and random lines thrown into the mix. Over the next two weeks, these strips will move around, and probably triple in number.

I’m a very visual person. This set-up grants me a bird’s-eye-view of the story. When I begin the actual drafting, I will mark through each reference with a highlighter as it becomes part of the story. Maybe it’s silly, but I like seeing that colorful progress. It motivates me to keep going. I used this process for the first time when I wrote Freeborn. As I got into the thick of it, I knew I would use it for every future novel.

One tool I didn’t utilize with Freeborn, but am using with Phreak Show, is character cards. I created one of these for each of my named characters:

While I have all these in a digital file, I wanted to hang them right in front of my face—like an open photo album. Historically, Victorian sideshows had at least 10 attractions; more commonly, they had 12-15. Phreak Show has 11. That’s a lot of folks to keep up with. I’m counting on this set of cards to keep the characters fresh in my mind, make sure I keep their descriptions consistent, and remind me of anyone I leave out for too many consecutive scenes.

Every part of the writing process is fun to me. But this next stage, where I begin filling in the gaps & fleshing out the details, is one of my favorites. With the concrete, tangible scraps of paper in front of me, it really feels like something is being accomplished—like the story will take shape, that it is coming to be.

If you wanna stop by and have a seat on one of the settees, then consider this an open invitation. The coffee’s always hot. And if you’re nice, I might even let you pin something to the plotting wall. I know, I know! I get pretty excited about it, too.

{Sidenote: See that lovely hand cutout? It pivots like a mailbox flag. When it’s up, it means: Leave me alone. I’m writing. Only bother me if I need to back up my files real quick before bolting out of the burning building.}