A Guide for the Seasoned and the Not-So-Plot Savvy
This is a subject that a lot of writers tend to struggle with. They have ideas, great ideas, but are uncertain how to string them together into a solid plot. There are many methods that have been devised to do so, and most seem to be based on something you might remember:
The 5 Point Method
This is your basic plot diagram:
Exposition – This is the beginning of your story. This is where you introduce your character (s), establish a setting, and also present your main conflict.
Rising Action – Your story now begins to build. There are often multiple key events that occur where your main character may be faced with a new problem he has to solve or an unexpected event is thrust at him.
Climax – Everything you’ve been writing has been leading up to this moment. This is going to be the most exciting part of your story where your main character faces the main conflict and overcomes it.
Falling Action – This is mostly tying up loose ends after your main conflict is resolved. They are minor things that weren’t nearly as important as the main conflict, but still needed to be dealt with.
Resolution –The end of the story.
This is probably the easiest way to remember how to string together a single (or multiple) plots. It may be easier for some to define the main plot as the central conflict, or the thing that’s causing your main character a huge problem/is his goal.
The 8 Point Method
This method is used to write both novels and film scripts, and further breaks down the 5 Point Method. From the book Write a Novel and Get It Published: A Teach Yourself Guide by Nigel Watts:
Stasis – The opening where the story takes place. Here you introduce your main character and establish a setting (Watts defines it as an “everyday” setting, something normal, but it can be whatever you want).
Trigger or Inciting Incident – The event that changes your character’s life an propels your story forward. This is where you introduce the main conflict.
The Quest – The result of the event. What does your character do? How does he react?
Surprise – This section takes of the middle of the story and involves all of the little setbacks and unexpected events that occur to the main character as he tries to fix the problems he’s faced with and/or achieve his goal. This is where you as an author get to throw complication, both horrible and wonderful, at your protagonist and see what happens.
Critical Choice –At some point your character is going to be faced with making a decision that’s not only going to test him as individual, but reveal who he truly is to the audience. This cannot be something that happens by chance. The character must make a choice.
Climax – This is the result of the main character’s critical choice, and should be the highest point of tension in the story.
Reversal – The consequence of the choice and climax that changes the status of your protagonist, whatever that may be. It could make him a king, a murderer, or whatever else you like but it has to make sense with the rest of the story.
Resolution – The end of the story where loose ends are tied up. You’re allowed to leave things unresolved if you intend to write a sequel, but the story itself should be stand alone.
Three Act Structure
While this method is usually for screenplays, it is also used in writing novels (for instance The Hunger Games novels are split up into three acts). From the The Screen Writer’s Workbook by Syd Field: Acts 1 and 3 should be about the same length while Act 2 should be double. For instance if you were writing a screenplay for a two hour film Acts 1 and 3 would be 30 minutes each while Act 2 would be 60 minutes.
Act 1, Set Up – This contains the inciting incident and a major plot point towards the end. The plot point here leads into the second act and is when the protagonist decides to take on the problem he’s faced with.
Act 2, Confrontation – This contains the midpoint of the story, all of the little things that go wrong for the protagonist, and a major plot point towards the end that propels the story into the third act. This is the critical choice the character must make.
Act 3, Resolution – This is where the climax occurs as well as the events that tie up the end of the story.
Another way to look at this method is that there are actually three major plot points, or disasters, that move the plot forward. The first is at the end of Act 1, the second is in the middle of Act 2, and the third is at the end of Act 2.
The Snowflake Method
A “top-down” method by Randy Ingermanson that breaks novel writing down into basic parts, building upon each one. You can find his page on the method here. His ten steps:
Write a single sentence to summarize your novel.
Write a paragraph that expands upon that sentence, including the story set up, the major conflicts, and the ending.
Define your major characters and write a summary sheet corresponding to each one that includes: the character’s name, their story arc, their motivation and goal, their conflict, and their epiphany (what they will learn).
Expand each sentence of your summary paragraph in Step 2 into its own paragraph.
Write a one page description of your major characters and a half page description of less important characters.
Expand each paragraph in Step 4 into a page each.
Expand each character description into full-fledged character charts telling everything there is to know about the characters.
Make a spreadsheet of all of the scenes you want to include in the novel.
Begin writing the narrative description of the story, taking each line from the spreadsheet and expanding the scenes with more details.
Begin writing your first draft.
This is what I do. I tend to keep in mind the basic structure of the 5 Point Method and just roll with whatever ideas come my way. I’ve never been a fan of outlines, or any other type of organization. According to George R.R. Martin, I’ve always been a gardener, not an architect when it comes to writing. I don’t plan, I just come up with ideas and let them grow. Of course, this may not work for some of you, so here are some methods of organization:
- Character Sheets
And if all else fails, you can fall on the advice of the great Chuck Wendig: 25 Ways to Plot and Prep Your Story.
Remember, none of the methods above are set in stone. They are only guidelines to help you finally write that novel.
whenever i see these post-apocalyptic films set in the USA where everyone is pretty much just killing each other with no mention of other nations i always just assume that the rest of the world is fine and has learnt how to resume life as normal
"I can do anything"
Stiles, Danny, Peter and Derek are Ron, Wade, Señor Senior Sr and Señor Senior Jr (respectively) in the Kim Possible AU I drew few days back. I wanted to finish it and lol got carried away with the whole deal. It was fun tho! :D
Thanks to derekhaie tweet about this AU!
an excerpt from my response to my lit class heart of darkness online discussion, enjoy
Marlow associates imperialism with darkness, not because of the corrupting and pervasive effect it has on the native people of Africa, but on the maddening effect it has on the white Europeans. The “darkness” of Africa in one way can be interpreted to mean the lack of social constructs and obligations of Western persuasion. Time and time again, Conrad makes a case arguing that if you take man and put him outside the sphere of moral authority (be it anything; government, church, society, etc), man will go mad because they have no one to answer to but themselves. Who is the real “savage” then, if not the white man on a bad power trip? Or the Western European countries who ruthlessly exploit an nation’s resources and people for their own economic and social gains, under a hypocritical veil of humanitarian motives? People connecting “insanity” with the station manager “going native” are severely misguided. The white station manager isn’t going mad because of the supposed “sinking of morals and association of savages” (which is extremely racist unto of itself), but because they couldn’t control themselves.
Forest near Haru’s village
- Avatara the Last Airbender Scenery