I love to plot!
The possibilities are endless, the characters new and the settings fresh. This is the part where my imagination takes flight, and I let it go, not trying to make sense of the ideas, just letting them flow. There is plenty of time later to say “no, that is silly” or “she would never do that” or “no way would they go there”.
This is the part where I make new friends and find out all I can about them. I write character sheets with details I will probably never use. I visualize what they look like, use pictures of actors or faces created by an AI site, think about how they will sound and talk. What habits do they have? Are they going to be cast as hero or villain?
I research locations (google is great for that!) to create my story world. Usually I create a town that is not real, but very similar to a real town. I can add what I want then, putting parks, lakes, highways and downtown where it best suits my story.
Since I write cozy mysteries, I have to come up with a murder or crime. And that means a victim, cause of death, motive, suspects, red herrings, plot twists and a sleuth. And my sleuths all have four legged side kicks with tons of personality.
Part of a cozy mystery is also about the side characters. And in a series, there are many that return over and over in each book. These characters need to be thought about too. There has to be a reason for every person placed on the page, good or bad.
My sleuth has to be someone relatable with connections to the location, characters and have some reason to be involved with the investigation. Otherwise, wouldn’t you just leave it for the authorities?
Speaking of the authorities, the sleuth must either work with or around them, but there has to be a way to get real information about the crime, so it’s best to plan a connection that makes sense.
How do I do all this? There are several steps to my method. I’ve tried different ways, but always seem to come back to these three…
First, I mind map; just throw ideas on the paper and see where and if they connect. This is also a good way to see how the characters connect to each other and the crime.
Then I do a more step-by-step plot. I lay out a timeline, determine what action is going to be in each chapter, what characters are going to appear and why, what time of day or day of the week it is, where the action takes place… you get the picture.
Finally, I write, using my outline as a guide. But more often than not, my characters will take over at this point, and start changing things around or adding their own opinions of what should be happening. I kid you not. Sometimes I’ll look at a chapter and wonder where it came from, it certainty wasn’t in my outline!
And somehow, it all comes together, ready for the next phases; editing and publishing!