Laurinda says that plotting for her begins with the seed of an idea. For her third mystery set in western New York, Laurinda wanted something quirky, combined with something native to the setting. She came up with UFO sightings and windmill farms.
Next, she works on the murder. She imagines a murder victim and why someone would want to kill that person. Her conclusions lead her to flesh out the murderer. For Laurinda, murders (and mysteries) are "all about relationships." She starts with the murder and the people involved, building the plot from there.
After she's churned ideas in her head for a few weeks, she may run her plot by someone else. Laurinda says a brainstorming partner can be helpful. That person could be a fellow writer or a friend who acts as a sounding board. A brainstorming partner can point out inconsistencies and ask questions, showing the writer where the story is confusing.
The hardest part of plotting for Laurinda comes after the main plot is hammered out. She has to develop all the subplots, twists, and red herrings, and then find the right place for them in the narrative.
If plotting an entire novel seems too daunting, Laurinda advises writers to start with the plot of a short story instead. "It's easier to carry a plot over 20 pages instead of 270," she notes, "and it's a great way to see how you can move a story."
Laurinda Wallace is the author of two Gracie Andersen mysteries, Family Matters and By the Book and working now on the third one in the series, called Fly by Night. She has also written a novel, The Time Under Heaven, and a 30-day devotional called Gardens of the Heart.