Saturday, December 24, 2005

Plotting I

Okay. You have an idea. Now, write it down. Just the idea part! Don’t worry about plot details, characters, whatever, except those that are important to your idea. Don’t worry about length; that’s not the concern. Just write as long or as short as you want.

[Come back when you’re ready…]

Done? Good. Now, right down a logline for it. A “logline” is used in Hollywood as part of the decision-making step before a script is bought; it’s the simplest concentration of the idea. If you take more than 50 words to write it, then you’re not trying; think in terms of TV Guide entries (short, to the point, not really clever, but still manage to get the point).

Remember “Die Hard”? It became part of a lot of loglines. “Under Siege“? “Die Hard” on a sub. “Under Siege II”? “Die Hard” on a train. “Speed”? “Die Hard” on a bus. “Masterminds”? Die Hard” at a school. If you liken your idea to a popular movie it makes life easier, even if it’s a couple of them.

Example: “Sex Percussions”: “Cast a Deadly Spell” in Canada, with the detective backed by a band of capoeiristas.

Now, summarize it in about 200 words or less, bolding possible cliches. Variation on the above: If you can’t, you’ve either got too many cliches (in which case you had better start over or simplify things), or you’re just not really trying. Use a slash to separate phrases that are close together.

Example: “Sex Percussions”: A Mayan GODDESS has CURSED THE WORLD to be less fertile. A Vancover-based DETECTIVE has FIGURED IT OUT, and ASSEMBLES A TEAM of MARTIAL ARTISTS / MAGES to HELP him THWART HER PLANS and SAVE THE WORLD.

Once you have done that, the next thing is to start plotting it out. Now, if this were a movie, you’d need to do about 40-60 scenes (drama-40, action-60). As this is a comic book, that doesn’t really apply; with each scene at about 4-6 pages of comic book, that converts to roughly 160-360 pages. Figure out how many pages you are writing, and perform the following calculations:

To your main plot, add some sort of sub-plot (may or may not add to plot, or even parallel the plot. (for 1 page of subplot for every three of the main plot). For every 120 pages, figure you should have one subplot (so a good 300 page book will have 2-3 sublots), and for every 30, there should be one page of running joke.

Example: “Sex Percussion” is short: 60 pages. It has one subplot (Detective Tate and his romances), which is allocated 15 pages. It also has 2 pages of running joke (why Xquiq is a bad person). The remaining 43 pages are for the main story.

Don’t get hung up on page numbers, however, as 1 scene doesn’t equal 1 page. When you right the beats, figure one scene will equal (on average) about 3 pages (so Sex Percussion was planned for 20 scenes total ( 2 running joke scenes (always plan for at least two running joke scenes, or else it’s a one-time gag and not a running gag) and 5 subplot scenes).

But...You're not quite ready for plotting yet...

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