I’ve been getting a lot of questions pertaining to how I, personally, begin plotting a book.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: it is a horribly messy process.
A lot of the time I’m scribbling in the margins when I should be filling in spaces and plot gaps. I tend to work with pen, which might not be the best idea as plotting is very much a growing and changing thing. It is an idea in it’s very first formation.
Can I reference Dragon Ball Z here? Will anyone understand that.
This out line says, “This isn’t even my final form!”
Because it still has a few incarnations before it reaches that final, solid gold stage.
But, before I go on too long, here is how I begin.
Plotting With Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell claimed that, at it’s essential core, every story is the same. It’s just told with different words each time. A great example for this are ALL of the Star Wars movies. They follow this pattern perfectly each time, (unfortunately allowing for glitches like Jar Jar Binks).
While that might rub some people the wrong way, I don’t mind this idea, or this format because the stories that I write are usually fantastical and adventurous in nature. Those elements pair well with this format. Heck, I’m sure that with some creative tweaking, this format could easily apply to contemporary or upmarket fiction, too.
- The Ordinary World
- The Call to Adventure
- The Refusal
- Meeting with the Mentor
- Crossing the Threshold
- Tests, Allies, Enemies
- The Approach
- The Ordeal
- The Reward
- The Road Back
- The Return
Mind you, these are all vast ideas that have been boiled down to a tiny handful of very vague words. Look beyond what these words might initially mean and figure out what they mean to YOUR story.
I begin by taking a piece of blank, lined paper. You could just as easily do this in a word processor and save yourself the trouble I put myself through. I just like being able to step away from my computer screen and look inside myself for this part. Being away from the internet allows me to see the story inside of me for what it really is.
Every three lines, I write a heading from this list. When your each stage 6, leave double the amount of space as this might take a large chunk of your book.
Now, try to write down key events in each stage. What is the call to adventure that pulls your protagonist, and your story, forward? Why might they try to refuse? Each step of the Hero’s Journey pushes you to ask a question and, most of the time, your story will give forth an idea, an event, or, at the very least, a mood. Each stage should have a small twist as the stages signify the ups and downs of the plot.
Remember: these are only prompts. Don’t force your story into the confines of these plot prompts if it doesn’t fit. Find a new way, a new prompt that pushes your plot forward.