Wikipedia describes a plot as: a literary term for the events a story comprises, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, sequence, through cause and effect, or by coincidence. “HUH?” In layman’s terms: Plot can be defined as the individual parts that make up the story, particularly how the parts of the story relate to one another. They can relate through a sequence, coincidence, or the author could do it deliberately. The plot should spur some sort of emotional reaction from the reader. There is no story without a plot. The plot is what drives your story. Develop your plot first so that you know where your story is heading. The plot is sometimes referred to as the spine of the story, meaning that it is the backbone where all of the other parts connect. The beginning of your story, generally the first sentence or first paragraph, should end with an introduction to the primary plotline. Once the reader has a good idea about what is going to happen, then the middle (guts) of the story starts. Pacing is very important when developing your plot because a story will rise in action as the plot moves along. Plots can be as intricate and complicated as the writer wants, but sometimes even a simple plot can be of great interest. This is where it is very important to know your reader. You should be able to state your plot in one or two sentences at the most. If a plot requires more than 25 words, it is too complex. Rewrite and narrow things down. The primary plot should be simple. If it is unusual or thought provoking, then the more likely the reader is to stick around to find out the complete story. Here are some sample simple plots: o Man versus man o Man versus nature o Man versus animal o Man versus woman o Man versus work o Man versus himself Driving Forces of your Plot: Most plots are either character-driven or event-driven. o Character Driven: Relies upon decisions and emotions of your main character or a couple of characters. Conflict is inevitable. There are often heroes and villains. o Event Driven: Relies upon external events to advance the plot. Things happen! Natural disasters, war, manmade disasters, etc. are examples of event-driven foundations for your story. The plot will directly reflect the type of work. For instance, a tragedy will have a plot that focuses on suffering, fear and pity. Whereas a comedy would focus on hysterics, laughter and making the reader smile when they read your work. What follows is a Plot Diagram. A plot diagram is used to map the events in a story. It is a basic triangle structure starting from left to right. The plot diagram was originally described by Aristotle. Gustav Freytag worked to modify Aristotle’s original design. He added a rising action and a falling action to the structure, making it look more like the triangle shape represented below. By placing the significant events from your story into the plot diagram, you can pull your story together. It helps you visualize the progression of your story line. Gustav Freytag considered that a plot was divided into five individual parts, which when brought together, completed the plot. Beginning/Exposition: this is the first part of the plot. It introduces the characters in the story. This level of the plot shows how the characters relate to one another. In this stage you give your story a title. Middle/Rising Action: this level starts with the rise of the conflict within the character or characters. In this stage, you enter a series of events that will take place. The middle plot generally focuses on heading climax and what happens just before and after the climax of the story. Look for events where the participants in your story are facing conflict that is directly related to making a decision concerning an event. How do they react? What outcome are you heading toward? Climax: the climax of the plot is the turning point in the story. The main character has to make some sort of a decision that will lead to the outcome of the story. This is the most critical part of the story and may fall anywhere within the work. Note: The climax does not necessarily have to appear in the very middle of the story. It could be closer to the beginning of the End Stage. End/Falling Action: the climax of your story has happened and now we know where the character is heading. The falling action is where the loose ends that we are unaware of start to be tied together. Often the greatest tension in the story lies in the falling action. Sometimes at this stage, the evil seems to be prevailing over the good. The end of the plot ties all of the events together. The plot begins to see that the action is falling. The climax has already occurred and decisions have already been made. The story ends with a resolution. This final stage can have a happy ending or a sad ending. The end can be “open ended” where the reader is almost left hanging. There is a small resolution, but if there are plans for a sequel, you may want to leave the reader open to make up their own mind. You also want to leave them “wanting more Sometimes a simple word or two added to a sentence can define your plot. For instance, in the sentence, “The elderly lady planted a flower on the grave,” doesn’t give us much of a plot does it? However, if you add “The elderly lady planted a flower on the grave of her loving husband.” This gives us a plot. We know the husband has died and believe there will be more information forthcoming to tell us why, when, how, etc. There are two types of Plot Structures: The Journey plot is the less difficult. It revolves around a hero. The hero is the main character and he or she is the one who ends the conflict. Although there are difficulties along the journey for the hero, this plot focuses on the hero doing the most work to the good end. The Contest plot structure is generally between two main characters (opponents). This is where you typically see good versus evil. Often these two characters are oblivious of the other’s intent. The characters may have some idea about the other character’s thoughts or ideas, but they are most focused on their own challenge. There are two schematics involved in plot structure. There is a visible plot where the reader actually sees what is going on and there is the invisible plot where the author is the only one who actually knows what is going on. This is great in mystery novels. In this type, the plot is the process of the character(s) discovering what is actually happening. Setting the scene within your plot is necessary to outline the problem or issue that the character(s) are facing. Someone within the scene is seeking a solution to their problem. It could be just the main character or several of the characters who are searching. The desire to find a solution to a problem moves the plot forward. Events: Catalyst: A catalyst of the story is that moment when the main character is thrown into a circumstance that initiates action on their part. o Winning the lottery o Going off to war o A crime happens o A murder Big Event: The big event relates back to the catalyst and generally concludes the introduction to the story. o Someone steals your lottery ticket o A murderer starts writing letters to a journalist or the police daring them to catch him o The main character sets out to prove who committed the crime. Pinch: The moment the main character decides there will be a “showdown”. The decision to move forward, to proceed, to solve the crime, etc. Crisis: Before the showdown, the main character experiences a crisis. There is doubt, fear, and a wealth of other emotions. They may be torn concerning what to do. Showdown & Resolution: A battle between two people, one person and the elements. Weaknesses and strengths are shown here. Dawn: The day after the conflict. Closing minutes of the action. Allows the reader to imagine what is not yet written. What will happen? Without these elements in a good plot, the story will not move forward. It cannot be understood by the reader, and the story will not be interesting or believable.
October 28, 2013