By now we’ve covered ideas, how to piece those ideas together using outlines, post-its, or what have you, and what tools are available to help organize the blot bunnies running rampant in your head. And with that, it’s time to further develop that framework into a functional story. A story with purpose. A story with an amazing plot.
According to Nathan Bransford, you shouldn’t do anything, shouldn’t even start writing, until you have a plot in mind. But how do you know if you have a complete plot and not just some vague idea or theme? In his post, Do You Have a Plot, Bransford tests us and also explains how to know when we do or don’t have a plot. As he says, “The complications are everything.”
If you’re a pantser like me, sometimes the elements and organization of plot aren’t an immediate focus when I’m writing. I develop scenes in chunks, some of which don’t come in chronological order for my story. And in the first drafts of a manuscript, this is OK! But regardless of what appears to be haphazard drafting, I always have a direction, a purpose in mind. Most writers are (or should be) familiar with the following plotting diagram. This is definitely the basic pattern I keep in mind when constructing a story, and most, if not all, successful stories mirror this set up.
But what exactly does all of that mean? Well, as is the purpose of this blog, I’m going to share an excellent breakdown of this chart from Author/Editor Cait Spivey. In her post Using Stages of Plot as a Framework, she expands on each stage of plotting with great detail and even GIFS! If you aren’t already following her blog, you should be. It’s an excellent source for writing and editing tips.
So combining elements from both previous sources, it’s important to realize that our story isn’t just a shopping list of events that happen. There has to be conflict, roadblocks, ups and downs, raging rivers of diversion (with purpose) that keep the story moving forward. One simple, but excellent example of this is from a short presentation by South Park creators and writers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in which the point out the importance of ‘therefore’ and ‘but’.
So remember, a story needs conflict and causation. Each scene should propel the story forward, create problems or solutions for our characters. And what about the characters? What good is a plot without them?! This leads us to the next topic in this series: Characters in Writing. See you March 25th!