This Business of Writing

Tips on Developing Plot

In The Craft of Writing on December 10, 2009 at 9:17 am

Plot, according to Aristotle, is “the arrangement of incidents” that follow one after the other in logical order. Plot is the turning points of your story.

There are five basic plots from which you may choose. They are:

Man against nature – “War of the Worlds”

Man against man – Any Bruce Willis movie

Man against the environment – “The Day After Tomorrow”

Man against technology – “I Robot”

Man against religion – “The Da Vinci Code”

When you break down your story, it will fall into one of these major categories. (If it does not, please let me know about it.)

Your plot, the way you develop your story, will have four components or plot elements. They are:

Exposition: The basic information needed to comprehend the story

Complication: The mechanism that introduces the primary conflict point in your story

Climax: The turning point at which your characters solve this primary conflict

Resolution: The series of events that bring your story to its conclusion

To create a persuasive plot you might consider the following tips.

Great plot is all about the conflict and the conflict is all about denial. Identify what your hero desires, then deny him that want. If your story lacks this fundamental, you have no conflict and your plot falls apart.

Think about the way you wish to design your plot. Can you create an unusual way to tell your story? Will you use flashbacks? Should you tell the story from a different point of view? Will your story be character driven, as in a coming-of-age story, or plot driven as in most thrillers? Should your plot be complex or simplistic? (Thrillers are typically more complex than a coming-of-age story, for example.) Imagine your plot if laid out in various ways and determine which works best for your story. Whichever technique you choose, remember it’s the conflict and characters’ passions that make your plot work.

Allow your plot to advance on its own. Each scene should follow naturally from the prior scene. Though they may be out of sequence chronologically, their order must make sense to your reader.

As you advance your plot, your “arrangement of incidents”, each such incident should escalate the conflict for your hero. Conflict should always be increasing. If it does not, the plot will not move forward.

Your characters should add to the plot’s development. That means events don’t just happen to them. They are instrumental in making the plot move forward. They change the “arrangement of incidents” by their own actions and motivations.

Your resolution need not be orderly. In reality, it often works best if it is not. As long as you present your reader with a final emotional release by way of your plot, they’ll be happy.

If you take your time and develop an effective plot, your efforts will go a long way toward making your novel a success.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight one method for outlining an effective plotline.

Until we again cross paths, I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

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