So, we talked about outlines in the last post and a couple of different ways to do that. Well, here we’ll talk briefly about maps.
Mapping: Basically, when all else fails and you’re not sure where your plot/story is going then map it out. Most maps can can take the usual form:
And I really do have to refer back to this constantly because this is what we were always taught when we were younger, right? But stories don’t always work that way. Mine certainly didn’t. Sometimes, the conflict is the very first thing we see. If you’re skilled enough the climax could be first and we just see the aftermath.
Maps are made to keep track of what you’ve done, much like an outline, but you’re looking at a visual instead of a bunch of words. It can actually be easier on the eyes because we see, well, a map. The point of this is to see progression, you want to see how far you’ve gone before you reached the end. And sometimes you can even make a map that shows connections like mine or this. (I included this picture from here because it’s visually smart, and it reminds of the MTA).
I think maps are fun. I know mine was. (I really need more highlighters). But anyway, there are tons of ways you can go about this. It doesn’t have to follow the train station style or even my weird double helix. You can make a map up all on your own. The shape is supposed to fit your work. The great thing about maps is you can design it, until you think it works for you.
Besides doing it like this, you could also do word association maps and mind mapping. In this case you build a web much like this. They can hold story ideas, character back story, physical/mental traits of characters you’d like to create, setting and connections between events. There is so much you can do with this. Word association can actually be the same. In fact, my fiction professor said once that using word association with maps like this can be really helpful. You keep going with associations until you can’t think of anything. The one you stop at is the one you should write about, because you stopped at it for a reason (whether hesitation or whatever, keep it in mind anyway!)
Anyway, there are so many other reasons why you should do maps or pick outlines, but I won’t be writing them all, because we both don’t want to be here forever. The point is everyone needs help. It’s fine if you don’t want to use it–that’s cool. I think we all have had that point where we deny using tricks like this because “We’re a writer dammit!”
But lets face it, writers are human, and sometimes we need help. Each method we use is based on preference, nothing is perfect. I will occasionally use both, you’ll use none.
Who knows? It’s just always good to learn new things that can help your writing. Even if you don’t use it, keep it in mind as an option. I always do.
Even when I really don’t want to.
You are not a bad writer for using this stuff. Don’t feel guilty or feel like your cheating or silly as I’m sure many who start out do. You’re doing everything you can to get that awesome story out. Use everything you’ve got!
In case you want to see some more examples other than my own, then here are two sites that I found with some good notes/information on mapping out stories.