Friday, May 1, 2015

May 2015 -- The Big Picture: Plot

 #5 Revision is a Process

This is Part 5 of a 12-part series on Revision is a Process @ 2015 All Rights Reserved

Plot is structure. Without structure you have nothing. — Ronald B. Tobias, 20 MASTER PLOTS
True or False: There are no new plots.

The answer is a resounding true.  There isn't a story that hasn't already been told. And that seems like such discouraging words. However, here's the catch, everything can be made new again, seen from a different angle, written with fresh insights, fresh words. Thus the story becomes "new again." 

Another factor about story plots is that readers of genre fiction have certain expectations of what should be in their stories. Fail to know those expectations and include them in your storytelling and you won't readers.

In addition to genre specifics, there is a basic foundation, the underpinnings to every story and that under-structure is plot.

In all my reading and studying about a story's format, seeing all the diagrams, and templates used for analysis, it became obvious to me that all stories can be boiled down to a simple plot: Someone goes on a journey. That journey includes danger, like:

– Physical danger (a confrontation, a life and death struggle, etc.)
– Psychological danger (a mind-wrenching experience, etc.)
– Heart danger (loss of love, a broken heart, seeking to find true love or a lost love, etc.)

And here's something else I noted: every story can be boiled down to a simple, straightforward plot line. This plot line is for the story's main plot, no subplots allowed. And best of all, this plot line is a visual that helps a writer "see" their story. This is what it looks like:


Act I                 Act II                     Act III
1/4 *                    ½ *                      1/4 *

A = start of story (not prehistory, not back story, no prologue)
B = The Inciting Incident
C = the middle of the book, the trials and tribulations that reveal how bad the story problem is
D = the climax, the confrontation with the antagonist and the win lose, or draw of the outcome
E = end of story

* = It's also important that the line represents the amount of pages in the story. I often use graph paper where one square equals 10 pages, so a 400 page book is 40 squares. I place dots on the line to indicate the three acts.

This is not the only way to see the plot line. Some writers like curves, others angles, and then there is the W plot line. At the end of this post is a link to a free Cheat Sheet that shows those alternatives plot lines. And here's a tip: pick one that works for you and your storytelling.

As you can readily see with the simple plot line above, the Three Acts is how the story is divided into three parts: the first quarter is setting up the problem and introducing characters. The second two quarters or half the story is about the protagonist going up against the problem or villain and being thwarted, regrouping, trying other things to solve the problem and just before the climax, that last quarter, the protagonist realizes the sacrifice it will take to defeat the villain or solve the problem. The last quarter is the climax, the actual confrontation and conclusion, the question of: Will the protagonist win, lose, or will the story end in a draw?

So, how do you use a simple plot line when you revise your fiction?
Glad you asked. Take your Chapter by Chapter Revelations pages and locate your major turning point scenes and mark them on the plot line. This can quickly reveal if you started your story in the right place as well as having ended it in the correct place. You might even notice gaps in the plot that you'll have to address. Or you might see where scenes can be moved about so there is a more linear flow to the plot, which the reader will appreciate–and understand.

You might go one step further and mark twists and turns, like enter and exit of the red herrings, the misdirections. You could include the spots where the villain gets the upper hand (but are there too many of those? After all, it isn't the villain's story.).

If writing a romance, where is the "cute meet" (the first encounter of hero and heroine), the first kiss, the point where the couple realize they are in love, etc?

And as you're doing this, you just might discover that your original theme needs bolstering, or that the original theme isn't the one you ended up with.

*** This blog is updated the 1st of each month and the June topic is CHARACTERS WHO MATTER.
*** Questions and comments are welcomed and are always answered.

***Free for download is a Writers Cheat Sheet Plot Diagram sheet, which is  HERE
     (This offer expires 12-31-2015)

*** Permission is granted to forward or mention the link to this blog or to the free Writers Cheat Sheets

*** IN 2016, these posts will be put into one file for downloading. To be notified when this is available, Connect With Catherine

*** "Terrific Titles" — an all inclusive guide to creating story titles" and other Writers Cheat Sheets are available HERE. If you want a marketable title, one that stands out from the more than 3,500 books being published daily, and catches the reader's attention, then you need "Terrific Titles."

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