Plotting with the Snowflake Method
I’ve talked a lot about plotting on this blog. I believe that it’s essential to have some sort of road map to follow when you’re writing. I completely understand that there are people who write by the seat of their pants who have no desire to even know how the book their writing ends (they feel that spoils the fun), but you still have to have some idea of where you’re going. If you just write without aim you won’t end up with a coherent story, or even one that you can edit into a book.
There are a number of ways for people to plot; so many different story structures that can be followed. You can be as minimalist as knowing who your main characters are and what their goals are and go from there seeing that they eventually get them. You can decide in advance what the major plot points will be: set-up, first turning point, point of no return, black moment, and resolution. Or you could go even further and plot out not only what those turning point are but all the steps that your characters are going to take as they move from one to another.
Another way of plotting is called the Snowflake method. It was created by Randy Ingermanson. The concept is that an author starts with an idea—say, identical twins. From there the author expands to a larger concept, a sentence: When a fun-loving girl who believes in living in the moment is being brought out into society to find a husband, her practical twin sister feels she needs to accompany the first to watch over her and support her because she’s been known to get into trouble with the wrong sorts of men.
You’ll notice that I don’t name the sisters, but I do characterize them. One is a fun-loving girl, the other the practical one. I say what the goal of the main character (the fun-loving sister) is.
From there I can write a paragraph with a general idea of the plot including the set-up, the climax or disaster, and the resolution. For my book, this would include the fact that the practical sister isn’t known to be accompanying her sister. The two sisters trade places frequently so that the practical sister can meet the people the fun-loving sister is interacting with and ensure that she’s meeting and attracting the right sort of men. Each sister meets and is attracted to two different men; the two men believe themselves attracted to the same girl. Confusion ensues until the girls are forced to tell the men their secret. With this knowledge, each man proposes to the girl who is the right one for him and the story ends happily. In my paragraph, however, I might even go into more detail than that since this is what I’m going to use and expand upon to write my story.
Once I’ve got a good idea of my story, I will need to get to know my characters better. I need a paragraph for each of the main characters including their goal, motivation, conflict, and what they learn by the end of the story.
Once I have these paragraphs, each will be expanded upon so that I get to know my story better, what needs to happen to move from point to point, what my characters need to do to achieve their goals and deal with the setbacks the will undoubtedly arise.
The point is to do each bit one step at a time. Doing it one step at a time, as I pointed out last week in my article on SMART goals, breaks down the enormous goal of writing a novel in manageable, actionable parts. The snowflake method is great at doing that—you start small (an idea) and expand it and expand it until you have turning points, scenes and characters.
If you’re interested in reading more about the Snowflake method, here is a link to Randy Ingermanson’s website. Reedsy also wrote up a very good and thorough description of the method. You can find that here.