Plots and Road Trips
Plotting out a novel or story is a lot like planning a road trip. Just like a road trip, there is a beginning and an end, and all kinds of things happen in the middle.
In Sudden Mission, the road trip and plot are pretty tightly bound. The start is important because you must have a place to begin. This is where the main character(s) get their information, where things get set up for what happens next. That is the green pin on the image.
The red pin on the image is the end. Where things wrap up, the protagonist wins or loses, the antagonist overcomes or loses. (Hey, I’m not gonna give anything away, here) All those little yellow pins in the image are places on the way where things happen. In Sudden Mission, that could be zombies, samurai, aliens.
To be honest, the route in Sudden Mission wasn’t this well planned out when I started. I knew my starting point, a fictional community near Raleigh, NC. The end was in Choteau, MT. Don’t ask me why. It just seemed–from a 14-year-old’s perspective–unattainable, I guess.
My primary mapping tool at the time was Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and my knowledge of the routes from my years of riding across the country. I took my share of literary license with Campbell’s outline, and I did my best to bring a number of experiences and challenges to the protagonists along the way.
Having the framework of a road trip or Campbell’s Hero’s Journey–or both–helps keep the story on track and keeps you working toward a defined goal. It also helps give you ideas along the way for what could or should happen. I still keep a copy of the journey framework handy when I write. I now also use route planning tools to help with getting from point A to point B, knowing the mileage, what might be found along the way, and the challenges.