Writing 101: Index Card Plotting

Today I will go over one way you can plot and organize your novel. This is what I’m currently doing.

Materials: Index cards (white and multi-color), index card box (I use the more expensive ones that have the metal siding, they look best and are more durable than the plastic ones), and the plastic tabbed sorts that are made for these kinds of boxes (I use to separate the chapters).

To start off with, I cut each index card in half. Using only one sentence per card seems a waste, so I do this to have more materials to write on. If you have an idea for a scene, go ahead and write down the idea in one sentence on a card half. Do this for as many scenes as you can, because you may find you get more ideas as you write them down. For the different story elements that make up the story, I use a different colored card. Below is an idea of how I color code them.

Main Story: for the main story, I use the white index cards because they are the easiest to find and they come in a pack of their own color.

Subplots: If you’d like you can use a different color for each subplot. I use one color for all of them. To keep them separated, I simply assign each subplot a number and write it in the upper corner of the card. This also helps keep track of them in the story, if multiple subplots are used in one chapter.

Worldbuilding: This category is self-explanatory I think. If your world uses magic, creatures, or something more normal like a type of gun, this color is what you’d use for the scene sentence. This way, you know at a glance that you need to include it into the chapter so that your readers will know it’s something important to the characters and their everyday life.

POV Change: This may not apply to everyone’s stories, but mine includes a different character’s point of view (POV) each chapter. I add these cards to each grouping of cards to remind myself of which character’s voice is needed.

Relationships: I use two colors of cards for my current story. One color for my main character (MC) and his father, another color for the MC and his love interest.

These are the five categories I currently have. With the index cards, I can shuffle them around and figure out the paths each chapter needs to go in to be able to advance the story. After I decide what goes into each chapter, I can group them together and place them behind a card separator. Using these, I can lay them out in the order I want them to appear in the chapter to keep myself on point as I write. Depending on what I come up with on the spot as I write each chapter, I can add those elements into later chapters to create more to the story.

If you decide to try this way of plotting, I hope it goes well for you. Are there any story elements I may have not included that you use? Comment below to tell me what it is and how well it works for you!


Writing Exercise: April Fool’s Day (Part 1)

For this exercise, choose any character(s) you’d like to tell about April Fool’s Day. They could be told individually, or in a group. What are their reactions? How do the characters react to each other’s reactions? Are any of the characters surprised at another for liking the idea behind this day? Do any of the characters have similar customs where they come from? If they do, do their customs have them do anything different? This little exercise is meant to help you understand your characters and their world better.

Worldbuilding 101: Legos

When you see the title above, you may have been like, “What? Isn’t Legos for kids?” Not so much. You’d be amazed at what can be used to create inspiration for your stories.

As for Legos, they are literally building blocks which can be used to create whole cities (if you have enough of them). If not, you can create maybe something like a castle, a house or even something as small as a vendor stall.

Why would you want to use a toy to draw inspiration? It isn’t about the act itself, though, when you have fun the creativity will flow. It is about having the image of the item or locale in mind as you build it with your hands. As you think of the object in your mind, chances are, elements of a scene or a whole scene can come to you. This is where the creativity comes into play. As you put together the object, you might begin to imagine the scenery surrounding the object or even the people. With different sets available (medieval, pirates, space, urban), you can find pretty much anything to match the mood of your story. I would like to recommend Ebay to find the best deals. You can easily find lots with hundreds to thousands of blocks for a reasonable price, which is better than paying full price at a regular store.

Worldbuilding 101: Mapping Layouts

In this post, we will be talking about an element of worldbuilding called “Mapping”. This will be about mapping out the layout of rooms and buildings that your main character will see throughout their journey in your story.

This is a really simple thing to do and all you will need is graphing paper. You can purchase graphing paper, download it into Microsoft Office programs and print it out, or draw it out yourself with blank paper and a ruler. Some of the graphing paper you can purchase have lines on the back like notebook paper, that way you can make notes when needed.

Using the graph paper, you can determine the measurement of the rooms and how the layout of the furniture will be situated. Using this mapping exercise, you can think of how you want the flow of the rooms to be. This is important to keep the locations of the items your character uses consistant. I have read many reviews of books where the author seemed to have forgotten important details and moved things around.

If your character lived next door to a bakery in one chapter, you do not want to have them living above the bakery in a other (unless they had moved within the story and it was mentioned). Having layout maps can help you look up the information you need quickly. I put mine into sheet protectors and inside a binder behind a tab for whichever series I am working on at the moment. Having one binder with the maps from all of your novels and stories, even when they are located in different worlds, helps keep you from going through multiple binders to find what you are looking for. Of course, that decision is up to you, but you may find that having a “Maps” binder is beneficial.

Once you get the hang with creating room layouts, you can move onto bigger maps such as villages/towns/cities, countries, worlds and even galaxies! I hope you can use the information we have contributed in this post. As with other writing subjects, mapping can easily be an overlooked aspect which can easily affect your story. Remember, one of the goals to writing fiction is to have fun!