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Plot. It’s kind of the thing that makes your story move along, isn’t it? So why are we not talking about it first?
There’s no value to a good plot without the backbone of characterization and the long bones of setting. The musculature of plot can only be added on after those two items have been fleshed out.
A good plot comes FROM these elements. It’s impossible (or nearly so) to start with a plot and derive characters and settings from that plot. Sure, you may have a plot ~concept~ but good fiction is conflict-driven, and good conflict comes from good characters. Do you see the link?
Now, there are as many ways to plan a novel as there are novels, but almost every plot conforms, more or less, to the classic three act structure. In the BEGINNING of the story, the readers learns of the setting, the characters, and the conflict that the characters eventually find. This conflict is what drives the main character away from whatever they were doing and out into the big bad world. Next comes the MIDDLE of the story, where complications and obstacles hit the characters, each causing a mini-crisis that must be solved. In the END, the climax of the story is reached and all the loose ends tied up.
Note that all of these acts are driven in some way by conflict. In the beginning, something must happen to the character that conflicts with their goal (a loss, a death, being fired), or gives them a new goal (revenge, happiness, a magical object to locate).
In the middle you, the author, gets to throw obstacles in your character’s way. Use these to show how they struggle towards their goal. Keep raising the stakes to keep your reader interested. At the same time, remember to advance the inner conflict that the character(s) feel, how they grow and change and learn to work together or find new strengths they never knew they had.
At the end, you get to throw your character into a black moment, where it seems as though things cannot possibly get better. Finally, they are able to draw on what they learned in the middle to persevere and show the reader how they have become a better person. Remember, character transformation is what a good plot is all about.
Another method of planning involves the 8 step method:
1 Start with the status quo
2 Something happens
3 The character decides to act
4 The first obstacle or setback
5 More obstacles or setbacks
6 The character reaches rock bottom
7 The character reacts to their plight
8 The character is reborn
9 The character seizes their prize (or not)
10 A new status quo
Whatever method you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1 Write down any brainstorms that come to you. They may not all be good, but they are all valuable. Sometimes one bad idea will generate a few really good ones.
2 Just because you have an outline, you don’t have to stick to it! Pay attention to any unexpected changes and see where they take you.
3 A story without subplots will seem thin, but all subplots should relate to the main plot, and be created by it.
4 Any work of fiction should begin at, or immediately before, a moment of crisis.
Finally, if you get bogged down, don’t forget these two key phrases:
Here are a few websites to see for more details and advice. (Disclaimer: We do not personally or professionally endorse any of these sites, nor do we have any affiliation with their creators):