Thursday, April 18, 2013

Plot

"I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write." ~J. K. Rowling

Although it's pretty obvious, I'll take a moment to define plot. Plot is the what happens in a story and the sequence in which it occurs. Some writers like to use outlines to plot their novels before they start, others do best just jumping in and deciding how things will happen as they go. Either way, a good plot needs certain elements.

Character - Of course, if anything of interest is going to happen, there needs to be someone for it to happen to, or to make it happen. Characters should be realistic representations of people. Make the readers care about this individual. 

The hook - This is where you grab your readers and make them want to keep reading. It could be  your protagonist making a life changing decision, or being forced into a situation he would have never chosen.

Conflict - The character runs into trouble. He wants something so badly he's willing to do anything to get it, but there's something or someone in his way.

Stakes - The higher the stakes, the more your readers will care. If you're protagonist wants something badly but everything will be just as before whether he gets it or not, the stakes aren't high enough.

Subplots - In real life, we never have just one thing going on. Add in family life, job life, or whatever else your character has going on. Just make sure to tie it into the main plot so it's not just there to look pretty. It has to have a real purpose for the story. If you could cut the subplot without the story suffering, it's not a good subplot and should either be cut or worked into the story in a meaningful way.

Climax - This is what it's all been building up to. All the conflicts, stakes and character struggles come to a peak and play out in a grand finale.

Resolution - This is where you tie up all the loose ends.

Tomorrow's post - Query letters

22 comments:

  1. Most helpful tips, thank you.

    Yvonne.

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    1. I imagine you don't use plot much for poems, but maybe you'll write a novel, too. :)

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  2. Good summary of all the elements.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    #atozchallenge

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  3. I love that J.K. Rowling leaves some elements open to whatever happens. Even when I try to copy a plot, things tend to happen differently. I look forward to your query post tomorrow. I'm still struggling with mine.

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    1. Queries are a huge challenge. What to include ... what to leave out ... how to say it. It can be very nerve wracking.

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  4. I think the height of stakes can be relative. I know there are world-saving plots that failed on me - isn't it that way for everyone? Usually stakes have to resonate between character and circumstance.

    John at The Bathroom Monologues

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    1. There does need to be more than stakes alone. Very true.

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  5. Great breakdown of a story and I need to work more on 'subplots'. It makes the story way more interesting.

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    1. I think subplots generally make stories more interesting, too, but not all stories need them.

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  6. Hello, Heidi! This is a great breakdown of what you need for a good plot. Love that quote by Rowling! I do the same thing. I make plans and notes before writing, but the writing process always brings forth new ideas I hadn't considered in the planning stage, so I adjust my outline accordingly. Some people call that organic outlining.

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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    1. Hey, Laura! Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  7. Great tips. I found plotting to be absolutely essential to finally finishing a manuscript. The more experience I have writing the less intricate I make my plot outlines and just let things evolve as I write.

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    1. Yeah, I'm that way too, sometimes. The more I write the better feel I have for where things should go. For me every story is different. Some I have to do extensive outlining and stick to it, usually the more complex ones, while others I don't outline at all.

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  8. Good post! I'm looking forward to tomorrow's. New follower here. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge and I look forward to visiting again.

    Sylvia
    http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks, Sylvia, for the comment and the follow. :)

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  9. Very helpful, thank you. I have problems with climax and resolution, it's hard to tie everything together in a nice, neat ending.

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    1. You could just keep going and never end. lol!

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  10. Great post on plot! Short and sweet.

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