Backwards Plotting: ORAcon2013

Basically backwards plotting is starting your outline with the ultimate result of your story. The speaker that chose to talk about backwards plotting at ORAcon2013 probably had a lot more to say than she was able to get out (because people were not listening and she was trying to have an interactive lecture; it did not go well). Anyway, the one thing I took away from this session was that backwards plotting involves asking a lot of questions in order to make the story believable and in order to work out all the kinks.

Before beginning, a good thing to do is define your characters, figure out the ending, and figure out motivations that get your characters to the ending. Then, start asking questions. How did they get to this result? What are the problems? What would be too coincidental or cliche (and then avoid those solutions)? What secrets are being kept? How do we establish this or that fact without giving away the ultimate ending?

The other big thing I took away from this session was to avoid coincidences at all costs! Don’t do what’s been done a million times in the same way that it’s been done a million times. They suggested looking up cliches for your genre. I looked up cliches for fantasy and these are some of the ones I found:

  • Purely Evil/Purely Good. No one is purely evil or purely good. Your villain should have reasons for what he does. Your hero/heroine should have struggles.
  • Magic saves us all. Just when the poo hits the fan, a magician shouldn’t show up with a giant magical pooper scooper and fix everything or poof in to give the hero the right tool or whatever. Likewise, unlimited magic is an all too common, unrealistic, lazy way to write a story.
  • Good people are beautiful; Bad people are ugly. ‘Nuff said.
  • Women are damsels in distress-always. Now, I would say that if there is one character that is a damsel type of lady (I know some of those, and that’s okay) then fine. But women in any story should be deeper than that, even if they do need to be rescued.
  • Men are dumb or useless. This, I believe is a newer cliche, and over reaction to the damsel in distress.
  • The one vs. twenty and the one wins scenerio. Yeah. That pretty much never really happens.

There are more, but those are the ones that a lot of people agree are cliches to be avoided.  So, when backwards plotting, you can better anticipate and avoid these cliches and coincidences.

Here are a few helpful articles I found concerning backwards plotting:

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/developing-a-plot.html

http://blog.janicehardy.com/2011/05/get-back-working-backward-to-flesh-out.html

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2009/10/should-you-outline-backwards.html

Do you have any suggestions or methods for backwards plotting?

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