05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Plotting Mechanics

by Robin Weaver
The automobile actually can be a writing instrument. Stuck in traffic? Plot out your next chapter. Driving a hundred miles before dawn? Outline your entire book. The availability of Bluetooth devices and mini recorders make it easy to record these ideas that might have otherwise flitted away.

For most of us (especially those who still have day jobs), driving is frequently a solitary activity. Why not take advantage of this rare alone-time for the non-writing part of your writing? As I’ve already mentioned, you can plot, but you can also use this time to create by doing nothing. You’re saying “huh?”

Hold on. There is scientific evidence that most conscious perception goes on without self-consciousness. According to psychologist Shelley H. Carson, author of Your Creative Brain, “A distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.” In short, a distraction isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, letting your brain play hooky can prohibit fixations, thus freeing up the creative process. And what creates more of a distraction than driving down a lonely highway? Mind wandering is often associated with high creativity, so put your foot on the pedal and let your brain do its thing.

There are also other creative exercises you can tackle behind the steering wheel. Need to develop a new character? Take a glance at the drivers of the next three vehicles you encounter (preferably at a stop light—safety first). Try to give these drivers unique backstories: Who does he love? What crime did she commit? How much money did he spend on lottery tickets? Then, take characteristics from each and formulate one awesome character.

Need new story ideas? Play the license plate game—with a twist. Take the letters from the plates and define a character. For example, HJK-216 can become Harold Johnson, Kinetic Engineer who has 216 cats. Or Holy Juggling Kingpin who has two wives and sixteen kids.  Can you use either in your book? Even if you don’t get any useful ideas, participation in this kind of activity stimulates your gray matter.

Another thing you can do with license plates is use the states as settings. Nothing novel about picking a state, but what if you see three states, say: Indiana, Tennessee, and Florida.  Try to imagine a plot that will take your character to these seemingly unrelated places.

SOME CAVEATS. Have you ever gotten home and not remembered any of the drive? That may happen. So if you’re on a long trip, be careful that you don’t miss an exit (or two). And always, always, always adhere to the “safety first” rule. If the conditions are even mildly hazardous, watch the road. Your book will be there when conditions improve.        

Try these techniques the next time you’re “on the road again.” If nothing else, it will seem like you get where you’re going quicker.


Pippa Jay said...

I love driving, and like you find it a great time to mull things over. I find it's especially good if you're stuck, or I need to work out a plot twist or a character that isn't working.

Ashantay Peters said...

I have a small recording device I carry with me on trips. Sometimes I just make note of an interesting building or intriguing set of passengers in a car that passes me. Other times I've worked out the plot in a series of messages. Easy to use and some devices have hand-free options. Thanks for the brain teaser exercises!

Judith Ashley said...

Very creative post, Robin. I try out dialogue as I'm driving. I don't use any recording device even though I have one - haven't used it in so long I'd have to stumble through the directions again. Saying dialogue out loud helps me avoid stilted conversation and something that reads funny can sound snarky.

I'll have to try out some of your ideas about states and license plates. That could be lots of fun.

Lori Waters said...

I have come up with some crazy ideas driving in a car. But I love the idea about looking at other drivers. Very interesting!
Thanks for the great post Robin.

Sarah Raplee said...

I've done a lot of brainstorming during long drives with my husband. He's always a good source of ideas, and since he likes to drive, my hands are free to write our ideas down.

I like to think about my characters and plot while driving alone. Will have to try recording those ideas!

Diana McCollum said...

My hat's off to you, I tried recording devices but didn't care for that. I do let my mind roam when driving, and have come up with ideas, plot points and characters. Interesting post.