03 October 2009

Plotting a Short Story

So, how do I go about plotting a short story?

First, I start out putting my characters into a situation they'd likely be in (in the case of Aston, there aren't too many situations he *wouldn't* find himself in). Then, I began asking myself what could possibly happen (in most cases, I ask what could possibly go wrong) and how Aston will respond. From there, it's a simple case of repetition, continuing to ask those questions and determine Aston's response until I reach the end of the story.

Take my story "Ever Dark" for example (and if you haven't read it, be sure to check it out in Ray Gun Revival)

When plotting this story, I started off with a simple premise. Aston is sitting out in deep space minding his own business.

So, what could happen/go wrong? A ship can drop out of hyperspace right in front of him.
What does Aston do? Finds out the ship full of precious cargo.

What then? He discovers this ship has no crew.
What does Aston do? Boards it to grab some cargo.

What then? The law shows up.
What does Aston do? Tries to run.

What then? They catch him and want to board his ship.
What does Aston do? Weasels his way out of it.

Now, I could keep going, but then I'd be giving away the ending of the story to those who hadn't already read it. Needless to say, I eventually reach the story. Now, how I get between these points is open, but generally I keep the same points I plot out in this manner. This generally works for short stories...novels are a little tougher, because usually plot points are tied together so much that if something gets misaligned along the way, entire plot lines end up skewed later.

And that's how I personally plot out a short story. Hopefully it's been helpful to those new to short story writing (or writing in general), and given those experienced writers out there another tool in their belt.

Until next week...