Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Now That You've Got a Plan - Part 2

Continued from First, You Need a Plan.

So, you have a plan and it resembles some kind of maze that will turn out to be a haunted house. 

What's next?

Well the plan happened in August, but what happens next starts in September.  Inventory & Resources.  Or, if we're still comparing building a haunted house to writing a book (we'll make it a NaNo book, 'tis the season), then we'll call it:

Inventory & Resources/Plot Points & Characters

If this is your first year building the haunted house (writing a NaNo book) then you might think you have very little resources and absolutely no inventory.  If this is one of many haunted houses/books then you have spent the last year creating a better idea of how to organize your stuff and pull from resources such as neighbors (or for character building you have probably made notes of how random people behave, look, act, speak, what they wear, cool names to use, etc.).  For the haunted house, you probably made note of all of the decorations at other people's houses in the neighborhood last year and kept notes (mental/paper, what's the difference?) to ask them if they would be interested in contributing them to your annual haunted house, they will say yes, because they love the annual haunted house and want to participate.

Now, you have some inventory (new decorations that you didn't have to buy or new character traits that you didn't need to invent) and you have resources (new characters or more people who want to help build, decorate, scare, donate, or breakdown).


It's time to put that inventory and those resources/plot points and characters to work.  At the end of September, I send out a mass email to everyone and anyone who mentioned wanting to help with this year's haunted house, it's a virtual meeting of sorts.  This email is broken down into categories: Day Before, Day of, Day After.  Inside my categories I use a constant theme, Time and/or Resources.  We stay away from asking for money because it's scarce and we're in a Recession.  It's better if we band together, use what we have, give our time, and pick up a couple of loose ends like cob webs which need to be purchased every year.

Plotting your NaNo book is somewhat silmilar to plotting a haunted house in that we start with an idea that requires several steps to accomplish the actual house.  Your book will require plot points though that will dig into the story and turn it in different directions.  The plot points in the haunted house are based on what he have planned for each room or section as the kids walk through.  We're hoping when they hit the black light room they'll want to move forward to see what's next and that when they get to the strobe light room they'll want to find the nearest exit, but in order to do so they would have to move on to whatever lies ahead.  For a successful haunted house we at least name these rooms to get an idea of what's going in them.


Just like in a book, it takes a lot of people/characters to pull off a haunted house even if there are primary people seemingly running the show like the MC.  It's important to know all about the main characters driving the project/book, but it's equally important to know the supporting cast.  Here's how I keep it in order for both books and haunted houses:  I use a 10 cent notepad and write down names of people/characters and what their function is going to be and when.  Some characters want to be in charge of the food table (little kids get hungry and thirsty on this night and most of the mom's like to use this opportunity to make fun Halloween finger foods for the masses.  This is a bigger job than most would think.), other characters want to create a haunted room of their own using their own decorations (love these ones), some of the characters will be more than happy to provide the candy being handed out by the scarers inside the house, and some will be there the day after to help take it all down and clean it all up.  Regardless, they are all colorful characters essential to each part of the process. 

However, not every character/volunteer will show up at the same exact time.  For the haunted house we start early on a Friday and don't stop until well after dark the first night.  This is the first third of the book/haunted house.  A lot can go on during this time.  Two-thirds into the building/story we have another set of people showing up to finish whatever couldn't be done the first day.  The last part of the second half is where everything starts getting crazy.  The elecronics need to be turned on, the scarers need to get ready, the food put out and the show put on.  The last day is the end.  We wrap it up, but it still takes a lot of characters to break it down and make it magically disappear until next year.

This year it will take 21-adults, 1-Grandma, and 1-teenager to put on a 400-square foot haunted house that will take 2-days to build and 1-day to breakdown for 3-hours of haunting the week before Halloween.  (Not too different than the amount of work it takes to write and publish a book for a speed reader to get through in two days or less, but it's worth it, right?)

This is just an indication of why it can be useful to have a plan and keep it somewhat organized.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 3 - (How To Plan For Conflict).


  1. What a great analogy to the writing process. As a member/participant of the haunted house team who participates in all phases I can attest to the amount of work that goes into this. As a member of your upcoming NaNo team, I like how you've broken this down into parts that make sense for where I am at in the writing process. I can't wait to see tomorrow's post. conflict is what I seem to struggle with the most!

  2. You are very ambitious! But it sounds like fun and I'll definitely be checking in to see how things are going!

  3. I said it on the last post, but I'll say it again ... it's cool to see how the haunted house comes together. Wish I'd be able to see it finished (not just in photos) :)

    I love the analogy -- everything corresponds so well to writing.

    This is a really interesting way to think about characters. I think the most important thing is when you say it's equally important to know the supporting cast. I think these characters are what make or break your novel. Chances are your main character is going to be well developed because you spend so much time with him/her. But the supporting characters need to be just as developed. And if they're not, the whole book's going to feel flat -- it's not going to work.

    Looking forward to part 3!

  4. I've loved reading both your posts. We don't celebrate Halloween where I live (*missing out, what!*), so it was really interesting to see how you compared constructing the haunted house with writing/planning your novel.


  5. I don't know which I'm more impressed by. The plan for the haunted house, or the NaNo outline. Both I think!

    May both your projects prosper.

    You mentioned in your last post that detailed outlining takes some of the fun out of things. I don't think you're alone with this feeling. Another option is to work to a loose outline; have some idea of what the ending will be and major turning points but let the rest come together organically as you write. I agree that the amount of outlining needed does depend on the particular project and what it calls for.

  6. Regina - Without your support the haunted house might never exist. Thank you.

    Quinn - I wish you could see it too. I bet you would have fun working the inside.

    Rachael - Thank you! I'm sorry you don't live where you can celebrate Halloween. I'm not sure I could be happy knowing what Halloween is and then not being able to celebrate. Wish I could have you and Quinn both out for the night. You would have fun.

    Adina - You might be right about the loose outline. I think the interest will come back and that NaNo will be a blast. Thanks for wishing me luck with the two projects. I'll keep everyone posted.

  7. I'm with Adina, I am really impressed with your preparation (for both NaNo and the haunted house). I haven't been to a haunted house in ages. In a few years, my kids should be old enough. My NaNo prep is all in my head (fortunately, long car trips seem to spark the thought process).

    I tried to find you at NaNo to be a buddy, but I couldn't. Can you find me? My user name is Alison Stevens.

  8. Alison - I will go to NaNo right after this and add you as a writing buddy. I'm listed as PatriciaTimms. I carry a notepad and pencil with me everywhere I go because long car trips inspire me too.