Carrie Cross’s Advice to Aspiring Writers #4: Plot From the End
One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever read regarding plotting was from Ayn Rand’s, The Art of Fiction. Her premise suggests that an author must plan the climax in advance, and figure out the end of their story before they ever begin to write.
Some authors like to start with an outline, diagramming their whole book scene-by-scene. This structure doesn’t work for me. I find that it inhibits my creativity if I have to force dialogue, plot twists, and suspense into a prearranged outline. However, I made the mistake of starting my first novel with some juicy, creative ideas, but with no plan for where I was going with them. Why don’t I just let my imagination see where it takes the characters? I thought gleefully, and foolishly. What I ended up with was 400 pages of what I now refer to as “a tangled ball of spaghetti” that took months to unravel. That manuscript never turned into a coherent book.
And that’s because I didn’t know where I was going from the beginning. I started exploring a path without having any idea where it would end. I had the idea for a story, but I didn’t plan the climax, the finale, the de·noue·ment:
1. the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.
Ayn Rand’s advice on plotting was invaluable to me when I wrote my next book, which was the first volume of the Skylar Robbins detective series: The Mystery of Shadow Hills. This time I had the idea for my story, decided how it would end, and planned the climax in advance. And then I wrote toward it.
Every scene, every character, and every bit of dialogue was composed with the end in sight. If you don’t know where the end of the road lies, how can you possibly figure out the path that will lead you to it? As Ayn Rand says in The Art of Fiction, “The only absolute rule is-you must start plotting from the end.”
Places you can find the awesome Detective Skylar Robbins:
Barnes and Noble
Thank you for the fabulous post, Carrie! :)