Friday, September 23, 2011

The Importance of Planning in Fiction

After all the hype about Dan Brown's books I finally decided to read one. Since I'd already seen The Da Vinci Code at the movies, I opted for Angels and Demons, a story I knew nothing about. I was totally engaged in the plot and the characters until I got to the end. When Robert Langdon jumped from a moving helicopter using only his coat as a parachute, and landed unharmed on a river bank, I set the book to the side and didn't finish it.
This got me to thinking about my novel. I asked myself if the world I created was cogent. After all, my plot is complex and there's a lot of otherworldly stuff going on. The world I construct around my characters will play an important role in the overall believability of the story. I needed to be sure I'd done everything in my power to weave a tightly knitted plot, sooooo, I went into Google and did some reading.
During my research I came across two very interesting articles. The first, titled: The Importance of Setting by Tina Morgan, explains that authors must research and plan the worlds they are creating. Failing to do so could result in poor conflict resolution, which may cause the author to change the rules midway through the story. It seems Mr. Brown was guilty of this. Langdon's jump was completely out of character, not to mention unrealistic (I couldn't suspend my disbelief). Even if an author creates a world that is completely make believe, he/she must plan/plot out every contingency before putting pen to paper. Ms. Morgan says the extra work will pay off with a well written book.
The second article I came across discusses J.K. Rowling's plotting Method.  She uses a grid process to outline her chapters. They are separated by title and month then under each section, she explains how the individual chapter relates to the over-arching plot. She also has columns for the subplots of each of her six books.
Although my method of planning isn't as complex as Rowling’s, based on the success of her novels, I can see how effective and important planning is to the overall effectiveness of a story.  
Do any of you pre-plan or outline your stories?  If not, then I'd be interested to know how you organize the plots before putting pen to paper.  How do you make it all work?  Unitl next time, happy writing.