Element One: A Captivating Plot

Hey there!

Today we are going to focus on how to develop a truly mind-blowing plot.

1plotThere are so many sources on the internet and in various print resources that it’s hard to know exactly how to lay out your story. In my opinion, every incredible story has seven great elements:

  1. Plot
  2. Setting
  3. Theme
  4. Meaning
  5. Characters
  6. Good Prose
  7. Symbolism

These components combine to form a truly enthralling read. With a little bit of research you’ll find that all of the many techniques to writing an amazing plot can be summed up in five steps. Please note that these steps do not go into detail. They are more of an overview of each step meant to serve as a guide in establishing your base plot.

Most sources agree that you need to develop a clear direction for your story. Your story absolutely must have a decent point to it. Early on, you need to establish what you want to accomplish with your writing. Do you want your main character to meet the love of their life? Perhaps they will survive a traumatic event or discover the perpetrator of the city’s worst crime in decades. You need to know where your story is going. 

Secondly, you need to establish your character, or characters if you’re writing from multiple points of view. The main character(s) needs to be complex,  relatable,  and accompanied by a compelling motivationConsider the greats: James Bond, Katniss Everdeen, Gatsby. They all have a very believable reasons to do what they do. It’s clear why  they are who they are. Readers need to be able to connect and empathize with your character emotionally and mentally. Make them intriguing to your audience’s mind. This may be difficult if you’re writing from a crime boss’s point of view, but regardless, let the reader know why the character does what they do. In short, give your character a ‘why’. 

Next provide your character with a challenge. Perhaps it’s something that seems insurmountable. Or maybe it’s more like acquiring a dance to the high school prom. Whatever it is, it needs to be serious to your character and believable. Complicate things a little, or a lot. This challenge needs to push your character to their absolute limits. It’s the same in life – the experiences that shape us are usually the ones that were the most difficult to get through. However, once you make it out the other side of them you see that you wouldn’t be who you are today without them. Challenge your character to push harder, go farther and try longer. Give your character a battle to fight. 

Bring it all to a climax. This is the moment you want your readers to remember for the rest of their life. If they forget everything else about your story, they will remember the crazy sh*t that went down and how your character handled it. For example, the main characters high-school prom date forgot they said they’d go with *insert main character’s name* and instead stayed at home watching Netflix. Or the single witness to the afore-mentioned crime boss’s worst murder yet has fled town and your MC (main character) takes a trip to the LA slums only to find themselves at gun point. Make it harrowing, make it primal. Make it anything but boring. Above all, make it memorable.

Finally, bring your story to a credible resolution. You’ve created a clear direction for your work, given your readers someone to root for in the story and challenged your MC to face their greatest test. They’ve survived the zenith of the story and are now here, waiting for an end to their tale. Here is when you decide if you want to tie it all up with a neat ribbon or leave the pieces scattered for a sequel to put together. Whatever you choose, bring your story to a close by providing a believable conclusion. Notice the ‘your story’ disclaimer. If your story is way up there on the crazy scale with one-legged zombie dogs hunting down an elfin princess on Jupiter, the ending is going to be very different from the grade-school girl who is meeting her biological mother for the first time. You know your story inside and out, so you know how to end it. Take your time, and pull it all together for your readers.

Once you have done all this,  researched various plotting devices and found which one suits you best you can begin on your story outline. According to TheFreeDictionary.com, an outline is “a. A summary of a text or subject, usually presented in headings and subheadings, [or] b. A preliminary draft or plan, as of a project or proposal,” (thefreedictionary.com).  Basically, your story outline is going to be your draft of how your plot is going to go.

A useful tool in outlining your story is the story arch. I use this myself in my plotting and it is unbelievably handy.

story_arc

(Image Source: education.uwsp.edu)

(html link: https://education.uwsp.edu/yic/2014/lectures.php)

Your story arch takes you through the exposition, or the explanation into the rising action of your story. The rising action is the part of your story that builds up to its climax – the main event. Once your main character survives the climax, they then enter the resolution stage of the story, which is the period in which all of your authorial awesomeness comes to a close as your character concludes their story. You can also leave this part as a cliffhanger if you want to continue your story at a later time. (Sequels, anyone?)

That summarizes how to begin drafting your basic plot. Again, the more research the better, so look around and find writing techniques that suit your interest. I hope that you have enjoyed out first post on Creative Writing Elements. This will be an ongoing series, so please visit often enough to discover the remaining pieces of the effective writing puzzle.

Finally, for  today’s prompt: What is your absolute favorite plot? Book, movie, play – each is awesome. Please drop it in the comments and I look forward to viewing them!

Thanks!

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