I use a flow chart to plot my stories. I start with the beginning and give my characters a series of decisions. Then I try to figure out how many different results could come from each decision. The ones that lead to the next step in my process are the ones that I choose. There could be more than one solution. There could be one solution that will lead to another problem and one that could solve the problem completely. If I am early in the book, I choose the one that will lead to another problem. I never choose the one that could solve the problem completely until the end of the book. That’s how drama works. Even in a comedy, you need tension to drive the story along. My decisions in the flow chart, based on the information I give, tells me where the plot is going to go. This is not for the seat of the pants writer. This method is for people like me who like to have some idea of where they are going.
This is a good approach as it graphically shows the flow of your story. It isn’t an outline, at least, not the way that I used it. It was a way of experimenting with the plot. If the character does this what are all the outcomes? Then you pick the outcome that moves the story along. This only illustrates the choices that the character must make to move the story along until the end. The flow chart makes it easy to see where all the choices go. I have an elaborate one for my upcoming NaNoWriMo project. I think it worked well to help me write the outline. I could see where each decision would lead my characters and where they were going.
That’s important if you don’t want to get lost in your story. A flow chart is a tool that can take you from point A to point B to point C, rather like a map. It’s good to know your route, if you are an outline writer. Seat of the pants writers just take off and go. I tried that a few times and got lost when my characters started making decisions right and left and my plot got into a tangle. That’s when I decided to give outlining a try. I don’t’ put too much detail into the outline or flow chart. I leave myself some room to get side tracked. I leave those scenes in until I can see which will help me. That doesn’t happen that often anymore, now that I have gotten my technique down pat. It works for me, it may not work as well for you, but it is an option.
I have a flow chart app on my Nook tablet. There may be a version of it for Apple products, but I am not sure about that. I can’t imagine Apple products wouldn’t have one. I just did a search for flow charts and this one’s price was right – free. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the hundred dollars and more programs, but it works well enough. If you find yourself hung up in your plots, try a flow chart to make your characters decisions. It might work out well for you.