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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Guest Post: Author Anthony J. Rapino: Plot This

My feelings on Plotting are best described thusly: screw that asshole.  Sorry to be so blunt, but we just don’t get along, Plotting and I.  It could be due to a long held grudge after Plotting stretched plastic wrap over my toilet seat, causing me to splash my feet.  Or perhaps the time he left me stranded out on Highway 19 with no map, money, or phone.  It could even stem from the time I walked in on Plotting and my girlfriend making the beast with two backs.  Whatever the reason—and there are plenty—I simply refuse to speak to him anymore.  We’ve parted ways.

Here’s the thing about outlining that some people don’t get: it is not mandatory.  It’s all about what type of writer you are (which is largely determined by what type of person you are, but that’s another post).  It’s like I tell my students.  If you find yourself staring at a blank screen with no idea how to start your essay, you should probably employ some combination of prewriting techniques (cluster mapping, free writing, brainstorming, outlining, etc).  If, however, you find those methods tedious, skip it.  If you can sit down at the computer and just write, more power to you.    

I never did try to plot in earnest.  I remember very early on sitting on my bed with a blank sheet of paper, attempting the old “Roman numeral” outline.  That mistake very nearly landed me in the psyche ward.  I won’t go into details except to say it involved three unsharpened pencils, a bottle of glue, glitter, and the aforementioned outline.  It wasn’t pretty.

Put simply, my brain doesn’t work that way.  I can’t think out an entire story before ever putting pen to paper.  I can’t sketch out character traits before meeting the characters themselves.  I have to shake their hands and pat them on their shoulders.  They have to talk to me and tell me what sort of people they are.  Or, in other words, I just have to write.

I start with a scenario.  Often the scenario comes to me at unexpected times, on the toilet perhaps.  It could be anything.  A man falls into a hole.  A woman discovers strange, blue goo on her car.  Two children are attacked by man-eating crabgrass.  I start with whatever scenario comes to mind, and then I keep writing.  The story unfolds in front of me.  I never know how it’s going to end until I get there.  Sometimes it’s the main character that whispers to me, “Hey, Dillhole, give me a knife, make the antagonist a sea-dwelling octoman, and let’s see where it takes us.”  Other times, the story just happens. 

The thing is, I have to trust in my method.  This, right here, is why some people can’t write without an outline: they freeze up.  They need to know what comes next, otherwise it’s next stop writer’s block.  The other thing is I have to be okay with tossing my words into the virtual garbage heap.  When you write like this, without plotting, you’re going to have some false starts.  You’re going to have unnecessary scenes.  You’re even going to have aborted characters.  When you edit, you have to be okay with “killing your darlings.”

If all of this sounds like so much horse crap, you’re probably a plotter.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Not at all.  Remember, I said it’s all about what type of writer you are. 

The last thing is, you have to figure that out for yourself.  Because if you don’t know what type of writer you are, no amount of advice is going to help you.

Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Collect all twelve game pieces (available from each blog stop during my tour), put the pieces together, and decipher the code.  It will lead you to a secret website.  If you’re the first person to comment on the site, you win!

Join us in the Insanity Rocket to discuss the contest.

Stop by the blog tour page for all upcoming dates and more contest info.

I am very proud to announce the launch of my debut novel, Soundtrack to the End of the World, currently available in signed limited hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook editions.

Who knew the end could sound so good.
A suicidal nudist strolls into traffic.  An eccentric Buddhist claims he can occupy other people’s bodies.  All the while, whispers of a new form of entertainment blow through town.  Prompted by these strange occurrences, Marty Raft, a not-so-gentle giant, investigates and discovers underground clubs peddling music that induces an out-of-body experience.   Marty and a wannabe comedian, Corey, set out to prove these special frequencies are nothing more than a hoax, or at worst, a mass-drugging.  Instead, they uncover a secret with world-ending possibilities.
If you can hear the music, it’s already too late.

Author bio

Anthony J. Rapino resides in Northeastern Pennsylvania, somewhere between the concrete of the city and the trees of the forest.  On occasion, you’ll find him moderating the feverish battles between the creatures of these two arenas.  Whose side he’s on is anyone’s guess.

His newest fiction can be found in Black Ink Horror, On Spec, Arcane Anthology, Electric Spec, A cappella Zoo, Space Squid, TQR Stories, and carved inside a variety of autumn gourds.  His short story collection, Welcome to Moon Hill, is currently available, as is his first novel Soundtrack to the End of the World.  Proof of his psychosis can be found on his website: http://www.anthonyjrapino.com


  1. I can't imagine even trying to outline. Part of being a writer is the mystery. I want to be surprised by my characters,just as much as my readers. (Hugs) Indigo

  2. I have to agree with you. I never plot. The stories come to me out of nowhere. It's just nice to see a fellow PA writer making a name for himself. Keep up the good work.--mark :)