Friday, November 8, 2013

How I Plot a Story

Normally, I don't start of a blog post with an apology and an explanation, but today I wanted to. I haven't been posting (or writing) for the past week. Since, I deferred my University acceptance a year to work, I've been looking for a second job. Last week, I found one, so you can imagine that this week has been a whirlwind. My days have been filled with work, Downton Abbey (we've gotten my mom hooked, so we're marathoning through it), reading The Cuckoo's Calling (I've only got it for two weeks, since it's so popular at the library and I got a late start on reading it) and finally, more work.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a few days now, so I wanted to finish it and get it up for you all to read. In Oct., I talked about how I work through my story plots in this post, but I think it might have got lost in the length of the post, so I wanted to rehash it and make it a little more accessible.

I can't stress how important it is to find what works for you when it comes to plotting. Sometimes the best way to find what works for you, is to see what works for others. Thus, I give you my How-To on plotting.

I like to start extremely general and brain dump my thoughts on some blank paper. It usually results in something like this:
Click to view bigger, just don't click the Pinterest icon, unless you want to pin it.
Then, I assemble a general plot. I get rid of ideas that I wrote down and didn't like, and put some order to the ideas that I wrote down and did like. I start off with the three act structure:

Act 1-intro to the world/environment, intro to the MC, dramatic event (inciting incident) that gets the MC to discover the ultimate goal which will drive their struggle/journey/quest. 

Act 2- the MC encounters challenges that prevent him/her from reaching his/her goal. The MC will "gather forces" that lead to the showdown.

Act 3- showdown time! MC returns to the place where it all started, conflicts are resolved, loose ends are tied up

Once I've got that figured out, I feel like I've got some direction. Now it's time for the real work to begin. I use the plot graph. I learned it in school, way back when, and now it's a staple for my plots.

Introduction and Inciting Incident: This has the same qualities as an act one. We get introduced to everything and then the incident happens that gives the MC a goal.

Rising Action: This has the same qualities as an act 2. These are all the events obstacles that the MC has to deal with to reach their goal. They're called "rising" events because the tension is constantly getting higher and the pressure is building up so it can explode at the...

Climax: The MC has to face the antagonist (e.g. a person, a feeling, a natural disaster etc.) overcome the last struggle to reach their goal. The tensions should explode here, forcing a turning point in the story. Even if the character doesn't get the result they were wishing for, there shouldn't be anything else they can do or overcome after the climax.
For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet takes the sleeping drug and then Romeo kills himself because he thinks that his wife is dead. Their goal of being together forever is resolved in a terrible way, but it can not go any further from this point.

Denouement (Falling Action): Loose ends get tied and the characters see how they are affected by the outcome of the climax. 

Conclusion: The characters' lives are back to normal (or their new normalcy). 

I usually end up doing three or four plot graphs for the different subplots in my story. The first one is for the main plot. Then I do one for the love interest/romance subplot and others for any other subplots that I want to use. The final step is to figure out how all the subplots and the main plot fit together. Sometimes I rewrite all of the separate graphs into one giant plot graph, so it's easier to look at. 

There you have it! How I work through plots. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, how you plot, and of course any thoughts you may have on this post. 

Reading: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Listening: Beethoven 
Watching: Downton Abbey reruns!
Previously on A Splash of Photography: A video of the most romantic photos ever taken.


  1. okay, this explains it more. I am really liking your posts... KEEP POSTING! soaking it all in.

    1. Haha, yeah. I realized my own folly in that other post:)

      Thanks for the compliments! It's so encouraging to have someone say that they want more.


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