I’ve been fleshing out the plot of my next novel lately.* And something has come to my attention.
Man, I am an asshole.
Seriously. If the characters I create are just analogues of real people in some alternate universe, then I am in serious trouble if inter-universe travel is ever discovered. Because not only am I an asshole to them, they’re not the kind of people inclined to take that well. We’re talking vengeful blades of destruction here. I mean, I know I have no one but myself to blame, but still…
The only good news is that they’d probably refuse to believe in me as their god, because a lot of them tend toward atheism. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a fail-safe I built into them.
You want to know why I think they’ll be so mad? Here’s my super-secret plot development strategy:
1) Create a protagonist. Create them alongside the main conflict if you like, but create them good and hard.
2) Figure out what they want most in the world at that moment. Like, the thing that they will fucking die without.
3) Don’t let them have it.
Dick move, right? Welcome to the wonderful world of being an author.
Not to say that this is an original method or anything. This is just what I cobbled together from scads of writing advice and research.** I condensed all that into a couple of key points that fit easily onto a page or a cue card because I like simplicity.
Those three steps get me started. From there I can create other characters, ones who help and hinder the protagonist along the way. Or do both, because people are weird. And sometimes assholes. Before I know it, I’ve got a whole cast, or most of one.
And the key to keeping that story going? Every time it looks like my character is making some progress toward that goal they want, I make the situation worse. Simultaneously make it harder to get and that much more important that they get it. Or the consequences will be fucking dire. End of the world, or at least the protagonist’s world.
I really hope they never find me.
*Yeah, I’m an outliner. I like to have a map of where I’m going. Admittedly, most of the time the map ends up being about as accurate as those medieval ones with Here Bee Dragones scribbled in the margins. But still. I like the illusion of control before I start.
**Also known as reading. And watching movies. And TV. It’s a rough job, but someone has to do it.