When Plotting Isn’t About Things That Happen

I never really got the whole deal with plotting. Not just because I’m a pantser, maybe torch writer. I wondered why what happened in the story was so important and how it could come first. How did you know what you needed to happen?

I think I figured it out.

I start my stories with one protagonist and, so far, one main character. The goal of the book is to get the two from the constellation at the start to relate in a different constellation to each other at the end. Plus a few emotional ups and downs for the protag.

Have bad graphics:

Sava starts out emotionally bad, goes through ups and downs while getting close to Thanhan and end in a better headspace.

Salma starts out emotionally better, has deeper falls because she’s higher up but ends up with Samson and overall on a higher note.

If you look at the emotional graph from above, it’s just a line, going through the story. I’ll chose a straight line for the protag (because a token straight thing can’t hurt). They are the constant other characters are put in relation to. Because the second important thing is the protag’s relationship/constellation with the main character(s). This, so far, has also been easy because there was exactly one and the motion was getting the two closer:

A time line showing the story progress with a black dart going left to right at the bottom. Over it are a purple line for the protag and a dark green line for the mc. On the left the lines are fat apart, on the right the lines almost touch.

So on the one hand, I’m putting my protag through emotional states that usually correspond with shifts in how they relate to and/or feel about the main character(s). So far the latter was easy because it was mainly, separate at the beginning, close and committed in some way at the end.

This is my foundation for anything that happens. I cannot plot before I do not know what emotions and changes in constellation I want my protag to go through. What use is a quest for riches if that doesn’t move my characters into new constellations that will lead the emotional roller-coaster for the protag?

This became clear to me with the current ms. Poor Yles is going through a lot. I tried for a happy end but so far I am failing. The nice thing about this method is that I can start writing easily because the first motion of the emotional graph is always up. Protag gets something they can lose.

By the time I have set up things, characters have arrived. Now begins my work. I knew that without the happy end the emotional graph for Yles looks something like the above, only with a drop at the end instead of a final high.

There are drops and plateaus, each strengthening Yles in their belief they will make it. (But they wont.) So my “plotting” was taking the possible emotional hits and seeing how they’d bring the greatest pain. Which emotional turmoil would bring the desired effect on the emotions graph?

So I decided to go from small to big punches. Mam dies first because it is a difficult and distant relationship. Yles has their brother and a burgeoning love to absorb the pain. They get really close with their brother. Unfortunately, they are now caught in their mother’s dream, tasked with executing a life they never wanted. But for their brother and friend, Yles sure will.

They have friends, too and are generally on a good trajectory and open themself for more love, even if that one comes with pain packed. In Yles words: it’s better to cry at the end than not have you scent on my soul.

So I can slowly move out the brother and move in the second LI. At the moment when the brother is removed, Yles can fall back on their stable polycule. They can make it, even if it is hard. And they still have friends and a place to call home and improve.

Enter the removal of the second LI. Yles has only their first LI to fall back on and that is not enough. So they reach out to their friends. It helps a little, but catalyst friend takes the chance to push their agenda and cause the final disaster.

Emotional graph plunges. See you in hell.

This, this is my plot. This is what my story is all about. The events I make up to make this happen are secondary. Many will serve their purpose. It’s pretty much a game of luck about what I come up with from where my peeps are, their resources, the environment and what I need out of the events.

And this is what the emotional graph and constellations timeline look like for Yles. Characters come into play, get closer or leave the scene (line stops).

It’s more complicated for me because I have to align the above curve to the shifting constellations below and some of them are working opposite directions. Things need to compound and I am bad at maths.

So yeah. Plotting doesn’t make sense for me. Things Happening is not the underpinning of my stories. People Relating To Each Other is.

And that’s why I will always fail to plot a book from scratch. I need my emotions and constellations. If the events are not serving a higher purpose, they are useless.