There are two main types of writers: pantsers and plotters. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. Plotters plot out what’s going to happen, step by step. As Kipling said, “There are nine-and-sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.” I am a pantser, but I want to learn how to plot. I think it would improve my writing.
Every major character (not just the Main Character) needs Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.
Goal: What does the MC want?
Motivation: Why does the MC want this?
Conflict: Why can’t the MC achieve her goal?
Three step Oversimplification:
Problem: Something is wrong. The MC has a problem.
Struggle: The MC attempts to solve the problem, but fails.
Resolution: The MC solves the problem.
Five Plot-Point Outline
- Inciting Incident What happens to set the story in motion?
2. Plot-point #1: How does the MC react to the Inciting Incident?
3. Midpoint: Major obstacle that keeps the MC from resolution.
4. Plot-Point #2: What is the fallout from the Midpoint obstacle?
5. Climax: final outcome of overreaching obstacles
These are similar but not identical to Christie Wild’s Plot Like a Marathon System.
1, Sign-Up (before you can enter a marathon, you must sign up) What starts the action?
2, Starting Gun (the race starts) and the MC is in action
3, the Halfway Point (13.1 miles in a marathon) The MC has made noticeable progress toward her goal.
4, Hitting the Wall (exhausted, sore, ready to quit) The MC hits a major obstacle.
5. Crossing the Finish Line. (crossing the fiinish line) The MC lives happily ever after, or dies, or resolves the situation in some way.
. The Signup Let’s say you’re not a runner and your coworker signs you up for the annual team charity 5k. Dang it! Now you gotta run the thing. I mean, you could back out, but you’d let everyone down.And a marathon? They won’t let you cross the start line unless you have a bib on. And the only way to get a bib is to sign up for the race. The only way to cross the finish line and get a medal is to register for the race. You gotta SIGN UP! In a novel, something always happens that changes the character’s world. It’s often an announcement, invitation, arrival, or a discovery.If you take this one plot point away from your storyline, the story would never have happened. You wouldn’t have a story.
2. The Starting Gun The starting gun goes off, the race starts. You’ve started running the marathon. Your main character (MC) has reached the point of no return. His/her adventure has begun, and they must go on. This usually begins with the MC doing something/taking action.
3. The Halfway Point In a marathon, this is in 13.1 miles. In a novel, it’s when the MC has made some progress toward her goal. (Lots of wiggle room – not necessarily at the half-way point of the novel, but should be at least a third of the way thorough the book.) Nine possible midpoints (others are possible)
A. Discover important clue.
B. Obtain important tool necessary to achieve goal.
C. Meet an important person. For example, Moana meets Maui.
D. Arrive at important location. For example, Dorothy arrives at the Emerald City.
E. Get another person to agree to help. Example, Maui & Moana, or the Cowardly Lion joining Dorothy.
F. Receive help from another character.
G. Fall in love.
H. Escape from danger.
I. Rescue someone else.
4. The Wall. Hitting the wall is that point of a race where a runner is convinced they can’t go any further. They’re out of breath, their legs hurt, they want to quit. The wall is the point where something detrimental happens to the MC, causing them to feel down & defeated, unable to go on. Example, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, alone, abandoned by His disciples.
5. The Finish Line is the climax of the story. When the runner crosses the finish line, the race is over. When the MC achieves her goal, the novel is over. (There may be a few paragraphs or pages of cleaning up loose ends.)
The Lester Dent Pulp Fiction Plot Formula let Dent, the creator of Doc Savage, buy a yacht during the Great Depression. It breaks a story into four parts, not five. I’ve yet to be able to apply it to a story, but I reread it occasionally, hoping I’ll eventually suss it out.