>So how do I plot: first the hard questions…
Sometimes what is missing in creating a book outline are the hard questions. Your milage may vary of course, but for me that is often who is getting hurt, who is afraid and of what and why should I care… and of course, just how do the characters do anything about it.
So, for example, in Dog and Dragon, Meb, now returned to Lyonesse seventy years after her mother was supposed to have flung herself and babe from the window of the antechamber to the royal bedroom of Dun Tagoll, hurts in many ways. Principally she hurts because she has given up her love — and — to save him. Or so she believes. She’s in a mileau where she is despised, feared and resented by the nobility who are now the court of Lyonesse, which in itself is despised and hated by the other realms around it. Meb has no experience of being aristocracy — and has suddenly been raised above all of them, blighting lines and hopes.
Fionn hurts because he has lost her. He is for being near as old as the great planes of existence, a naïf at love and being loved.
Dileás hurts because he is loyalty — to one person and one person only. She’s been taken from him, and he will follow and find her, no matter what it takes.
Prince Medraut hurts and fears because she must outrank him. His regency and long plotting are brought to nothing by her. He seeks to use her, and yet is truly afraid of her. He would see her dead, or at least enchanted if he could. Why is he merely the Prince Regent? Is he a villian? And what happens to the future king Meb displaces?
The court magician Aberinn is afraid because Meb seems to be deliberately fulfilling his entirely false prophecy. Besides, he carries old and guilty secrets. The last thing he wants is her back. What are they?
The First are afraid, because they see possibilities of the intelligent races — species created with aspects of themselves interbreeding and becoming something which could be a threat to them. They can’t – by-in-large interbreed – they are mostly not interfertile.
But Dragons are.
Toss in that the sunset land, Lyonesse, once uplifted from the abyss and surrounded by moaning sea, shifting sands, and guarded by grim mountains that march to the coast, has become a pariah state, because it has made up for the loss of magic to Tasmarin, the place of Dragons, by leeching off the other nineteen worlds of Celtic cycle.
And the mad witch wreaks havoc on all of them – why?
By the time I have finished answering the questions I have the bones of the story. By the time I have identified the alliances, the minor characters who hurt and are hurt too, I have a strong idea of where it goes.
At this point I’ll write the first 5k or so, getting the setting, the characters, the different points of view. I’ve found that limiting these makes it less confusing for the reader, but you do need the ‘off stage’ones for many stories — I tend to use them to broaden the picture and also to have the reader expecting the cataclysms. Of course, these are not quite what is expected but they do prime the reader nicely.
And then I go back and add solutions/ reactions to the fears, and I have something of a plot.
So: I cannot be only plotter on this forum surely? How do you work it?