Tying the Knots: Visualizing Plot

As I reached the middle point in the novel, I began to worry about having all my characters enter and exit the final climax with meaningful story arcs. I worried about having everything come together and “feel right” and give the reader that sense of “everything paid off.”

So I entered my second phase of frantic story plotting. I struggled for awhile with a way to represent the story visually. I toyed with the program XMind (which satisfied some of my needs but not all). In the end, I couldn’t get it to present the elements I needed to see all at once in the format I needed. Primarily, I wanted to lay out character motivations and plot events, and be able to easily move things around, draw and erase associations, and so on. Plus, and this is the shortcoming of most programs like this, it needs to have a flexible and free-wheeling approach. I would also like the visualization to have some depth to it, so I can bring forward and push back certain element types. Color coding and icons are also critical to highlight story arcs and similar threads. Someday, perhaps, I may collaborate with a developer to design such a tool. For now, however, in the heat of artistic creation, I was too impatient to slow down for such a project. So I did the visualizations in my head. Still, I think there’s a better way.

Although I would still love to have the tool I describe above, I am fairly satisfied with the resulting outline. Having a plot line I’m comfortable with, makes writing the prose relatively smooth sailing. I love not having to worry how I’m getting to the next scene. Knowing that, I can just play with the language and the characters and the scene and just make the prose come alive more.