Don’t lose the plot! Here’s how to plot

Don’t lose the plot! Here’s how to plot

You’ve created an array of brilliant and rich characters and now you are back to staring at the blank page. Well now it’s time to get started on plotting (building) your story and trying not to get lost on the way! Follow our five simple steps to story building and your story will start to take shape faster than you know it and hopefully you’ll have fun along the way!

  1. Questions. Start asking your characters questions and looking back at their main goal or want vs their needs. You need to do this for your main character/protagonist and also your villain or antagonist, even if the villain is something internal (insecurity) or perhaps an illness or physical challenge. This should also reveal subplots for other characters and storylines within the main frame of your story. What is your character’s greatest desire that propels them towards their destiny?
  2. Obstacles. No one wants to watch a play or film where nothing challenges or changes the character. We like to see the character suffer, change, grown, make mistakes, find redemption. You may have grown very attached to your characters but it’s time to inflict some pain and see where these paths lead them to.
  3. Catalyst. What is the catalyst that forces your character to change their life/course/journey/thought process? What event triggers change and a point of no return where your character cannot continue life as before?
  4. Conflict. This fuels the story and moves everything forward. Characters should encounter problems from the get-go, create mini problems that lead up to the big climax.
  5. The End. What will your character look like on the other side of this journey? You protagonist will have been through something in this story, have they reverted to their old ways? What have they learned? Have they learned anything? What have we learned as an audience?

Activities to inspire

  • Write down a long list of what you want more than anything else in the whole world. To find love? To be a famous singer? To become a best selling author? To become a knight? To open a zoo?
  • Look back at your characters weaknesses and faults from the Character profile activities. now write down all the things that will stop your main character from achieving their goal. Her mental illness? His fear of heights? His terminal illness? Her husband? Remember internal struggles (fears) are as difficult to overcome as external ones (political regimes, abandonment of unicorns).
  • Time to look at the villain. What is he/she/it’s greatest desire? What is getting in the way of them getting what they want? Write a scene where your main character first encounters the villain.
  • Life changing events- write down 6 possible events that could change your character’s course irrevocably. Choose one of these events and write the scene where this happens.
  • Bitesize conflict- write down 10 mini conflicts/obstacles your character encounters. What is a potential climax?
  • Begin to plot on a timeline the events of your story from beginning, the plot problems and conflict/onstacles, then climax and finally the resolution. Do not stop at the climax in the planning stages, you must plot the resolution. If you stop there, that’s when you wind up in no man’s land of writer’s block. Repeat this activity for any subplots as well.
  • Before/After- write a before and after list of how your character was at the beginning of the story to how they are now at the end of the story.
  • Don’t forget the audience! What one thing do you want the audience to leave feeling or questioning at the end of your story? What message or challenge? Love conquers all? There is always hope? Love is a lie? Aliens are real?
  • Pitching- no don’t roll your eyes. Writing a pitch really does help focus your story, especially if you try to write it half way through when you reach a stumbling block or the well of ideas has dried up. Try to write a one paragraph pitch, then a one sentence, then reduce it to one word.  Your pitch could include your characters, the inciting incident, your setting, even elements of the message to the audience. Example pitch, ‘A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.’

Stay tuned for next week’s article where we will look at exploring the STORY WORLD.

Ref: Ready Set Novel by Chris Bath, Lindsey Grant, Tavia Stewart-Streit


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