Demystifying Plotting Part 2 of 2

In the last post, I discuss how plotting is not as hard as it sounds so long as you don’t make it as hard. The whole point of it is to just jot down ideas and points of each part of the story. Don’t worry about cohesion, theme, or twists. Just write down each piece and then move on.

In this lengthy post, we’ll run through an example.

I write down my overall plot: A knight journeys across the lands to slay the dragon who has kidnapped the princess.

See? Already, you know how this story starts in the beginning and the end. At the beginning, the dragon comes, lays the smack down on the castle, snatches Princess Peach, and then absconds with her. The king sends the knight to go kill it and get his daughter back. At the ending, we know the knight is fighting the dragon, kills it, and takes Princess Peach back home to live happily ever after. But what’s in the middle? Umm … well, he journeys there, and that’s what we need to figure out. Second, let’s back up a little bit. Is there anything we can do to set the story up before the dragon attacks? For example, does the dragon have to be the be-all, end-all of villains?

Yes, we can!

Let’s have a dragon goddess unleash a terrible dragon upon the mortals. She does this because at one time, the lesser races worshipped her and the dragons. She desires those Ye Olde Tymes to return. Also, it comes at a moment when humanity, along with the other races are ready to war with one another.

Chapter 1. The Dragon Goddess summons the Black Dragon. Commands her most powerful minion to kidnap the princess.

Chapter 2. The King argues with the Elven and Dwarven delegates about a potential treaty. The delegates angrily deride the King. They leave. The reader knows war is coming as already skirmishes have been fought.

Chapter 3. The Outlying Fortress that is guarding the Wastelands is destroyed by a flock of dragons. The Black Dragon flies toward the kingdom.

Chapter 4. The dragon attacks the castle, captures Princess Peach, kills the Queen trying to save her daughter.

Chapter 5. The Aftermath. The king mourns his wife, and summons the most fabled knight of all the lands to kill the dragon.

Chapter 6, 7, 8, 9 …. uhh …. stuff …

Chapter 25. The knight fights the dragon before the Gate to the Dragon Goddess’ realm is opened.

Chapter 26. The mortal races are united, treaties are signed, and the knight and the princess get married.

Okay, now we have an epic fantasy on our hands. Already, we have five chapters at the beginning and he haven’t introduced our hero yet! Some blogs will say that’s not a good idea. Right now, we don’t care. What we care about is just getting all twenty-six chapter ideas out. The fine-tuning comes later. The plot twists come later.

What do we do next? Well, we need to introduce the knight in the next chapter.

Chapter 6. The knight is at a tavern, drunk, mourning his dead wife and youngest child of six years from an orc raid while he was off seeking treasure. He argues with his surviving son, who leaves him to join the war against the elves and dwarves.

Chapter 7. A servant summons the knight to the king’s castle. The knight tells him to eff off. Dragonkin, along with other monsters, attack the village and end up killing his son and most of the village before being driven back by the knight’s awesome fighting skills. The knight resolves to fight.

Now, the knight has entered the arena and our story is shaping up. We know he has to go to the castle, get his quest from the king, then journey to the Dragon’s land for the final battle. We think about it a little more and realize the knight needs resources in order to fight. Let’s pull out all the stops—magic, people, treasure, everything. The knight needs it all and he needs allies in order to do it! Let’s start with an expression, “Sometimes, politics makes strange bedfellows.” So, we’re focusing on the knight building an army to fight the dragon.

Chapter 8. The knight receives his commission at the castle. He travels north into monster-infested lands and meets with the cabal of wizards. They will aid the knight on condition on getting the dragon parts solely for their research. He agrees.

Chapter 9. The Dragon Goddess comes to the elves, promises them they will be favored servants. They agree, but some in the Council do not like the idea. The Goddess goes to the dwarves, they rebuff her.

Chapter 10. The dragons attack en masse on the dwarven holds. They are wiped out, but the dragons are spent.

Chapter 11. The knight travels to the barbarian lands of the Bear People. They love battle and one bear is worth ten human men. However, they live in squalor in lands fouled by magic. The knight negotiates a deal for the Bear People to migrate south to better arable land. They armor up and march.

Chapter 12. The Dragon Goddess delivers an ultimatum to the King and the rest of humanity. Bow on bended knee or be wiped out starting with the princess. The king refuses. It’s on.

Chapter 13. The knight, Bear People, and wizards encounter their first major battle against the elves. The elves are defeated, but the knight is severely wounded and may not live.

Chapter 14. Some of the elves throw in their lot with the knight in exchange for assistance to usurp the existing Council. The knight agrees.

Chapter 15. The knight and his army is repelled by the dragonkin and some guardian dragons.

Chapter 16. The knight quests to find an ancient sword and shield to bolster the power of his army.

Chapter 17. The knight slays the lich guarding the powerful artifacts, but is betrayed by the wizards. He is rescued some Bear People and elves.

Chapter 18. The Dragon Goddess appears before the knight and offers a deal with him. Serve her and she will make him a king. He refuses.

Chapter 19. Battle at the Dragon Border Part 2. The knight wins.

Chapter 20. The elves begin to fight among themselves. A civil war erupts. Despite this, they start overrunning the human kingdom.

Chapter 21. The remnants of the dwarves come to the humanity’s defense. The elves are finally defeated and driven back.

Chapter 22. The surviving members of the wizards come to the Dragon Goddess’ defense and begin preparations to open the Gate to allow the goddess to come to the realm. If she does, nothing can oppose her as she will be a living god.

Chapter 23. The knight is captured and tortured. His closest friends come and rescue him.

Chapter 24. The knight and his army meets the dragons and dragonkin at the Great Castle. The Great Castle falls, and the knight storms his way to the deep dungeons below to fight the Black Dragon.

Chapter 25. The knight fights the Black Dragon before the Gate to the Dragon Goddess’ realm is opened.

Chapter 26. The mortal races are united, treaties are signed, and the knight and the princess get married.

Epilogue: Several years later. The princess is in labor and gives birth to a dragon. The goddess’ plans are complete.

So, does any of this seem rushed? Of course. It’s a rough outline, but guess what? You now have the middle. Could any of this be more developed? Yes, definitely! Once you start getting into the chronology and pacing of the book, you’re going to find out that you’ll need to bring in more chapters, more subarcs, or maybe make cuts to the outline (like introducing the wizards is too much).

After that, you can think about twists and shoring up any story themes; however, you don’t have to do any of that, because with this outline now, you can actually start writing and let those components reveal themselves.

In conclusion, you now know how to plot without having to go crazy.

Happy writing!

Interview with Author Abigail Linhardt

Graciously offering to sit down and be interviewed by us again, Abigail Linhardt takes time from her busy schedule while earnestly awaiting the release of her audiobook for Revary.


What is the first book that made you cry?

I was 13 years old when “Order of the Phoenix”, the fifth book in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling came out. Just years earlier, I had fallen madly in love with Sirius Black. I loved him as a character because he was Harry’s only chance for a tradition wizard life and for familial love. When Sirius died in “Order of the Phoenix” I was crushed. I didn’t know that main, loveable characters could die. It was a chance for Harry and it was snuffed out. I cried for days. I was depressed. Changed my life and shortly after I wrote my own main character death.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

A have a couple. The first is too many story and character arcs—I get too excited, outline some and then get fixated on one and have to force myself to stop and outline the rest. This causes me to lose focus on the entire outline. Rather than filling in details later, I focus on one and then forget what my amazing conclusion was supposed to be! This leads to overdramatic scenes, too much action (which is a thing) and no rest for deep, psychological character development, which I believe to be very important. This also leads in to too many characters in one story. Which I try to fix by making more stories and the next thing you know, I have 20 MSWord documents open and no idea where my current WIP drowned.

Second is actually not reading in my genre. I read a lot, but I don’t read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, which is all I write. I end up instead reading reviews of fantasy stories and novels. Seeing what other people like or dislike about a major author. I don’t like a lot of major works, which makes me look like a hypocrite. But I also know that reading in my genre will make my writing stronger and more unique. Sometimes, I just buckle down and have to read a novel in my genre. But then the enormous number of books in one fantasy series always deters me and I stop.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes! I want to write romance novels. But not your regular kind. I love the sword and sorcery genre (think Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard) and heavy fantasy elements. I have read a few fantasy romances and they seem light on the fantasy and the gore. So whenever I get around to that novel, a pseudonym will come in to play. Just in case.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I always try to write the books I want to read. Sometimes that is going hard into originality if I have a richly realized world to talk about. Sometimes, if what is popular something I like, then I will write that. Maybe readers don’t know what they want and I have a little something that might spark their interest! So I can never only bow to the whims of the people. There is also a chance that my original story uses well-known tropes just enough to draw them in. Then, before they know it, they are swallowed up in an adventure they’ve never had before!

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I am not a fan of the ten to fifteen book-long series. I know that my genres (fantasy and sci-fi) love to do that, but I do not. I do not want to start a book and realize that there are nine more to go. It rarely works and a plot can rarely be sustained over that length of time without boring the readers, or changing to vastly it’s hardly the same story it was seven books ago. I write stand-alones and I love reading stand-alones.

That being said, I am writing a sci-fi trilogy and I have plans to expand on the universe of two of my stand alone novels. But making those stand alone novels as well. Jim Butcher did a decent job with his Chicago wizard Harry Dresden. I started on book three in his series and it stood alone just fine. Because of that, I know I can safely pick up one of his books and not be forced to start the next one right away.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell her a few things: One, don’t stop writing, you will make it. Two, your confidence is not arrogance. Young, writing me suffered a lot from fellow teenage writers and I wish she hadn’t. Three, just because you do not keep journals does not mean you are not a writer. I thought I had to fill dozens of journals to be a writer. But I found by the end of the day, after writing a short story, a few chapters in a novel, and some personal thoughts, that I had no need to write in a journal. I said what I meant through stories and that was fine.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Yes and no. It’s healing for me to write some of the things I do. I cannot leave certain words locked inside me or they will kill me. I do not believe in bottling up something that needs to be said. There is magic and power in words—especially the written word. So I treat it with respect and always try to remember the power words hold.

How many hours a day do you write?

It really depends. On my blog, I write often about being organized and making time to do the things we want to do. My catch phrase is “You will never find the time; make the time.” I am a college professor with a weird and insane schedule as well as a day job as a marketing supervisor and manager. During the summer, like right now, I write for hours every day. I have the time and make even more! I write short stories, chapters, outlines, and ideas for most of the morning. As a long-time college student, I know I cannot sit in one mood for 8 hours a day writing. It starts to get weird, bad, and the prose gets ugly. So I make time to exercise, get up, move away, do grocery shopping in between. My writing hours need to be broken up.

During the school semesters, it is harder to make that much time. I always strive for 2 hours a day though. It might not be much, but it gets the job done.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

I have a creative writing degree so I forced to think about fiction differently for a huge part of my writing career. I have read some weird books and multimedia novels as well. There was this one interactive, multimedia novel I found called “Nightingale’s Playground” that inspired me to try a project of my own. It was interesting to see stories told through words, video games, sound, and online interactivity. I created something inspired by that, using Mina Murray’s journal entries from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was not near as cool as I don’t have the computer know-how. But it opened the door to me for things out a hardback or an e-reader. It is very cool, but it also made me appreciate the tradition written word. And I probably like that better.  

Where can readers learn more about you?

My Facebook. I also have InstagramTwitter, Twitch. My website abigaillinhardt.com will be up in September.

Interview with Author Stephen Herczeg

Dragon Soul Press sat down with one of the eighteen Sea of Secrets authors. Known for his horror story, Angels of the Deep, we were intrigued to know where his inspiration stemmed.


If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?

Those that know me know my love for Stephen King, I have a collection of over thirty-five hard cover first editions in pride of place on my bookshelves.

But, my all time favourite author is James Herbert, and my favourite of his books is “The Fog.”

I think it’s the book that inspired me to take writing seriously. It’s a fun ride through a nightmarish hellscape and back, but what I loved about it and what I would love to emulate, if the right idea arrives, is the fact that the first quarter of the book is more or less a short story collection. Herbert devotes each tiny section in the first few chapters to one character whose entire journey is played out before your eyes. Few get out in one piece, and on the first reading you can’t even figure out who the protagonist is until you’re well into the book.

The other aspect is the level of unbridled freedom in the book. This was written in 1975 well before splatter-punk was a thing, but it’s just so intense and graphic. I read it when I was a teenager and it was like reading a Playboy, it felt like I was doing something rebellious.

I try to keep that style of writing myself. I don’t want to be held down by what is considered “correct” for the day. Writing should be a pleasure and not constrained by the tenants any other person’s subjective opinion.

What genre do you consider your stories? Have you considered writing in another genre?

I mostly write in the horror genre. It’s what I’ve always enjoyed reading and especially writing. I mostly blame my grandmother for introducing me to the horror genre. I lived with her from a young age, and on Friday nights when my mother was out, we’d sit down and watch the Friday night horror movie of the week. Between the ensuing nightmares about werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster, I developed a taste for it.

I also let the story decide where in the horror genre it lives. Some tales lend themselves to abject depictions of gore, while others move themselves into the more gothic and atmospheric side of the genre.

I have dabbled in some dark Sci-Fi and even a little bit of fantasy.

Lately, I have found that I’m a dab hand at writing Sherlock Holmes style pastiches. I was lucky enough to be involved in a Sherlock Holmes / H.G. Wells crossover anthology and that has opened a new world of crime fiction where dwells an insatiable lust for new Sherlock Holmes (or similar) stories. I’ve so far managed to have around eight stories accepted, both within the Holmes canon as it’s called and as part of various cross-over anthologies. My latest work-in-progress, in fact, is a Sherlock Holmes / Edgar Allan Poe cross-over involving one of Poe’s earliest stories.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

This may seem crazy, but it’s not a book but a series of comics. I love Batman. I grew up reading comics, mostly DC (Batman, Superman) and 2000AD (Judge Dredd, etc).

As I grew into adulthood, those things that I loved most about Batman, (i.e. he’s human, he’s trained himself to be the best, he never kills, he’s the world’s greatest detective, etc), are probably what influenced me the most.

I’m an unashamed IT geek, not nerd – let’s be clear on that and I’ll explain in a minute.

I work in a world where detective skills are paramount to being on top of your game. I started out as a programmer, investigating bugs in programs and using detection to get to the bottom of problems. As I’ve journeyed through my career that set of detective skills has stayed with me.

I now sport a Batman tie clip and cufflinks, drive a black car (it’s a Ford Focus ST, not quite the Batmobile but it goes fast), and I’m a Third-Degree black belt in Taekwondo (hence why I’m a geek, because nerds don’t have black-belts in martial arts).

So apart from the extreme wealth, I’m almost there.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?

Possibly, the most amusing and most amazing thing (apart from being married and having kids, that is) that has ever happened to me was “I won a car.”

Not just any car, an $80,000AUD Mitsubishi Evolution VII.

And not just in a raffle either.

Back in 2002, I was living in England and watching a rally on the TV. An advert popped up for a competition. I logged onto the super-fast internet of the day, watched a video of a car driving a rally course, chose the track map that I thought it was following and thought nothing more about it.

Two weeks later I received a big silver envelope inviting me to Cardiff to vie for the chance to win a car.

24,000 entered, 24 were chosen.

We spent a day at the Rally of Great Britain, meeting the Mitsubishi team, dining out at a nice restaurant, and generally having a good time.

The next day, complete with hangovers, we fronted up at the permanent track in Cardiff. There, all 24 of us were given a “how to drive” lecture and undertook four events:

  • Simulate changing a wheel during a stage of a rally;
  • Co-drive for a proper rally driver around the Cardiff track;
  • Do some actual driving in a modified rally car; and
  • Drive the Cardiff track on the simulator.

Each event was given points depending on how well you did.

At the end, my name was announced.

I won the car, I was on the Telly and I appeared in Rally XS magazine.

I drove the car around Europe, visiting sixteen countries and heaps of racing circuits. I brought it back to Australia with me and kept it for fourteen years.

I’ve dined out on that story for seventeen years and never get tired telling it.

Sadly, I sold the car three years ago. It was getting old, much like its owner.

What gives you inspiration for your stories?

To be honest, anything.

I try to look at the world with one question in mind “What If?”

My very first published short story “Death Spores” was based on the opening scene of my screenplay of the same name, and had its origins in me walking around at lunch time and asking myself “What would happen if someone was walking along and their head exploded?”

From that simple question came a rollicking tale of a galactic fungus that crashes to Earth and turns all and sundry into flesh eating zombies.

The screenplay came top ten in the 2012 Horror Screenplay competition, and the short story was published in “Sproutlings: A compendium of little fictions.”

The way I approach it now is to map out the closing dates for submissions to anthologies that I’m interested in and use the themes to inspire my mind.

“Angels of the Deep” was no different. The “Sea of Secrets” anthology had hints of the sea, creatures from the depths and fantasy about it.

I wanted to stay away from the standard creatures, i.e. Sirens, Mermaids, Kraken, etc, and researched strange and unusual myths associated with water. From that I discovered the Rusalka from Russia.

They were said to be the spirits of drowned women who were scorned by lovers and had turned malevolent towards humans. I already had my “mermen” creatures from another story and came up with the concept of a group of men in the worst possible situation (stranded at the bottom of the sea) being attacked by beings that resembled their loved ones. It is virtually a Greek tragedy played out during World War II at the bottom of the ocean.

What tactics do you have when writing?

I’m a planner. In fact, I’m an over-planner.

I start any new story with the germ of an idea, then I create a mind-map in a software tool, to which I keep adding more and more ideas. Fleshing out characters, their arcs, their interrelationships with other parts of the story.

When I’m planning a story, the mindmap is generally open on my computer desktop (at work), and any flash of inspiration goes into the map.

I also have a small database, that I wrote, which keeps a log of the characters and their place in the story. It can map the overarching character arc of the protagonist. It has a name generator, which can then link characters to the story.

I spent several years writing feature length screenplays, and through that I came across the Syd Field method for screenplay writing. A lot of the same concepts can be applied to prose, and I have used them from time to time.

The main thing I always keep in mind, is using the concept of “Setup” and “Payoff”, especially in Holmes story. Any little nugget of information that is needed at the end of the story must be planted somewhere along the journey.

Though I must admit that the level of planning is dependent on the length of the story. I do hate it when I start to plot out the bones of a story and end up having more words in the crib notes and internal dialogue than ends up in the finished story.

Have you written any other stories that are not published?

Tons.

I started writing in earnest back in the early 1990’s (yes, I’m that old). I still have some of those early stories, and the two shortish length novels that I hammered out as well. I cringe when I read them now.

I figured my problem was I couldn’t get the stories down quick enough by writing prose, so I then spent the next twenty years writing feature length (and a few shorter) screenplays. I’ve finished sixteen in total (with a couple unfinished). Four of them have won awards in various International Screenplay writing competitions. I managed to win the 2017 International Horror Hotel competition in the Sci-Fi category with “Titan” and came second in the horror category that same year with “Dark are the Woods”.

I also spent about seven years and several thousand dollars trying to get my ghost-serial killer film “Control” made, but at the end have nothing to really show for it other than a lot more experience. That whole raising money to make a movie thing is a lot harder than you think.

In terms of my recent prose writing, yeah, still have heaps of stories that haven’t found a home. Some I revisit when I see a submission opportunity that might suit, some I rework into shorter or longer versions, some I just forget about.

I think I’m up to about eighteen rejections for this year with various stories, so there are a heap in my “bottom” drawer, so to speak.

In fact, “Angels of the Deep” grew out of a different story that I wrote that never found a home, where the creatures are awoken from their icy slumber by a meteor strike. I’m seriously considering turning that one into a full-length novel.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Just the getting down and doing it.

I don’t mind the planning, I don’t mind the research, but I just love getting lost in the creative process when the juices are running hot. I’ve had days where I’ll sit down, with the intention of writing for half an hour or so, and by the time I reach a natural lull in the process I find that two hours have flown past and I’ve put several thousand words down on the screen before me.

It’s like a drug when that happens. It’s similar to the narcotic effect that long-distance runners feel.

Even at that stage, when you know you should be getting on with the dull day to day activities that make up life, all you can think about is going back to the computer and pushing ahead with the story.

I find that with some of the Holmes stories, I’ve done so much research and planning that the story just screams out of my brain, through my fingers and up onto the screen.

In fact, I find that when I type “The End” it’s almost like coming off a drugged out high. There’s a moment of denial, a feeling of being let down, and you almost have to drag yourself away in case you go back into the work and try to add something just to regain that feeling. Those moments are when you need to let the work sit in its first draft state until you’ve regained enough composure to revisit it with a clear mind.

What do your friends and family think of your writing?

My wife and kids are a little non-plussed. They see the anthologies arrive in their cardboard boxes. They help me take a photo with them, but they’ve never read anything I’ve written.

I’m hoping that Stephen King had the same problem when his kids were younger, not so much now I assume. To be honest, I wouldn’t let my kids read half the stuff I’ve written anyway.

I did manage to convince my daughter to participate in a Sherlock Holmes for younger readers anthology. I helped her come up with the idea and plot it out, but she did most of the writing. It gets published later in the year, though I think I’m more excited than she is.

My Mum loves my writing. She waits on each Facebook post and shares them with her friends. She’s also bought a few of the magazines and anthologies herself. She recently visited for a week and spent most of the time going through my vanity shelf and reading my stories.

Friends and work mates are simply amazed when I tell them I’m a published author.

It’s sort of the same reaction you get when you tell them you’re in a band (which I’ve done) or you’re a Black-belt in a Martial Art. To the average person those things are pipe dreams and supposedly unachievable, so it’s always nice to prove to them it can be done. I’ve been lined up to present a talk on story telling in the workplace later in the year. Have no idea what to talk about, but it’s an opportunity to promote my writing to my colleagues.

Where can we find you online? 

I must admit I’ve been really slack in setting up a Facebook page or a website to promote my writing.

It’s on my list of things to do but is stuck behind the ever-increasing list of submission opportunities that keep presenting themselves.

I have set up an Amazon author’s page and a Goodreads Author’s page.

50% Off New Year Sale

half off entire store

Dragon Soul Press is a traditional publisher that also provides professional services for self-published authors. All services are available for browsing on the website and there is a more in-depth description for each within the store. Below are listed the prices for the sale that takes place between January 1st to January 3rd. To receive the discount code, you will need to sign up for the newsletter by December 29th.

Full Edit starting at 5k words now $15
Proofread starting at 5k words now $10
Formatting under 25k now $25
Blurb Editing was $30 and now $15
Premade Covers were $75 and now $37.50 each
Custom Covers were $100 and now $50 each
Cover Teaser Graphics were $10 and now $5
Social Media Banners were $8 and now $4
Premade Logos were $40 and now $20 each
Custom Logos were $60 and now $30 each
Logo Full Branding was $100 and now $50
Personal Assistant was $5/hr and now $2.50/hr
Virtual Events were $50 and now $25
Facebook Page Treatment was $30 and now $15
Newsletter Appearance was $40 and now $20

It is not likely another sale like this will happen for a very long time so take advantage of it while it’s available!

If you have any questions, you can reach out to the DSP Facebook page or send an email directly to dspquestions@gmail.com.