I'm having a pretty good writing day. Still having it even though it's evening time, which is rare for me. I've slowed down, but I'm still going. I've put the actual rewrite on the novel aside in favour of doing an in-depth planning exercise for it before I begin again. It's not my usual way of working. I can be impatient to get to the actual writing part. So I tend to write until I get stuck, plot a little way ahead, cuss, slash, excise, add, revise, fret, panic, rinse, re-read, repeat.
But I'm finding this new way illuminating. Essentially, I've sketched out the wants/needs/obstacles of each significant character, and their own story arcs. Now I'm taking each line of story arc and interweaving it into one document, listed as much as possible in the order of the general events I've already established for the story. It's helping me deepen my characters and their motivations, which in turn leads to intriguing plotting possibilities. I've used a different colour of text or highlighting for each character, so I can see at a glance where I've used them. That's helping me see which characters I could stand to employ more.
It occurred to me this afternoon while walking back from my office that I could create a similar visual map for settings and motifs. Maybe I could apply the technique to teaching creative writing. If I had students map out the stories we study in this way, it might yield some useful ways of perceiving and talking about structure. I'd have to be careful not to let them start seeing the map as programmatic. It's more like a sorting mechanism that lets you see what you have so that you can then proceed to build something from it, choosing which building blocks to use and which not. Brilliance probably happens in the deviations from conformity, not in the unquestioning adherence to it.