To Plot in a Visual Way

I’m a visual thinker, as we’ve no doubt established, as well as a pantser (but only 90% of the time), but there comes a time when plotting is essential. My current plot is one that requires just that, elaborate planning and forward-plotting, one of which I don’t find too much enjoyment in (the latter).

Plotting and outlining are things I’ve never been too good at, I love binge-writing (and with school it was almost the only way I’d get anything written) and pantsing, there’s a thrill akin to an adrenaline rush that comes from galloping into the unknown although the momentum can be limited, prone to running out.

I see plotting and outlining as lengthy, strenuous processes (though I’m most definitely bias) in which your creativity is sucked dry by an idea that’s barely had time to stew in the pot of your mind. Nevertheless, it’s something I’ve had to learn to do, though not very willingly, and as such I’ve developed my own methods, and ones that (hopefully) retain the creativity I so fiercely love to protect, five are listed below:

  1. To not plot at all; the exception. If you see your story as a movie (in your head, as though you’re sitting front and centre in the theatre), and one you hopefully enjoy, the plot should be sound enough to write a first draft (in the least) from the seat of your pants.
  2. Map your story; grab a piece of paper and begin to imagine your story as a two-dimensional journey, one you can sketch on a map. Where do you start and where do you need to go? What happens in between?
    7564206906_32faa00794_oPhoto by Enrique Flouret
  3. Mind-maps; it’s not the most visual story development tool out there, but in mind-maps it becomes easier to visualise the story and to make links between events and trains of thought which makes complex plots possible to follow for those of us that dislike traditional plotting methods (i.e. Writing a long list of events).
    2495721756_5bb9923f69_oPhoto by Austin Kleon
  4. Flow charts; are you on the right track plot-wise? Flow chats can most definitely help you there! Create a box at the top of a page with the first event in it and work your way down the page and through the story, creating boxes around the main events.
  5. Sticky notes; hear me out, you know all those ideas for scenes floating around in your head? The exciting bits you’re yearning to write but you’re not sure when or how, write those down on sticky notes along with the scenes/chapters you already have and work out how best to fit them together; think of it like a puzzle.

Visual writers, what do you do? Do you like to draw scenes out in sketchbooks, imagine them in advance or merely write from the seat of your pants? What do you do when words fail?

Janna

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9 thoughts on “To Plot in a Visual Way

  1. Abby Geiger (@AbbyGeiger) says:

    I use a combination of all of the above. Most of the time I can see the story like a movie and just keep up with what my characters are doing, but for complicated scenes involving action with several players, I have to outline it or I get overwhelmed. “She does this, then he does that, then they go here and this happens, then this other guy does this over here…” To keep that in movie-mode, I’ll draw floor plans and sketch snapshots of what’s going on to see if it makes sense.

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    • jannakaixer says:

      That’s fantastic! I’ve found the same – complicated scenes need to be outlined or I get overwhelmed and stop writing. I love the idea of drawing floor plans and sketching snapshots! It’s absolute genius and it would definitely help to keep you in movie-mode so to speak. I might give it a go the next time I reach a complicated scene.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Janna

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    • jannakaixer says:

      Will do thanks! I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with running recently and writing keeps me sane(er). Thank you so much for the feedback! I’m really glad you’re liking it!

      Thank you for the comment and read!

      Janna

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  2. jaradwrites says:

    One thing I’ve learned as someone who traditionally writes prose, now writing a comic book, is how much writing for a visual medium forces you to think about how things look, how rooms are arranged and how people move, how they wear or hide their personality and thoughts with body language and expression. I’ve always been aware of them, but now that I can’t tell at all I really have to show in my writing.
    Another nice thing I’m picking up is how to break a scene down intk essential moments, you only have so many panels you can draw/get someone else to draw, so if you see the story as a movie, you have to pick the frames which best show what’s happening in the story. I find this constraint very useful and freeing, suddenly I’m writing less overall and focusing on what’s important, which is leading to greater satisfaction.

    If I ever get back to prose writing, I’m definitely gonna try this approach there, maybe the shift in perspective will have helped.

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