All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.
We are almost there, friends. We have been arming ourselves with the tools to write amazing stories, now we will turn our sights on the crux of the matter–plot.
The plot is the reason your hero exists. It is the reason for the world. Websters Dictionary says, “Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a sequence, through cause and effect, how the reader views the story.” Without plot, you have no story; without plot, you lose your readers. A plot can be as simple as: Jane’s family is cursed, and a stranger takes it upon himself to help her break the curse. Concise, simple, and to the point.
Sum up your story in one sentence. If you’re having trouble pulling out the plot line, maybe consider your story and your plans for it. What do you want the ultimate goal to be?
E.g. Harry Potter: a boy discovers he is a wizard and is the only one who can defeat the most dangerous wizard the world has known.
E.g. Clockwork Dreams: a girl learns of her family’s history of witch hunting, and she must stop them from waking an ancient evil before it’s too late.
The plot is the most basic explanation of a story. You may think you can’t condense such an awesome vision into one sentence, but doing so will help clear out all the dust building up in your mind which might distract you from the goal. The reason we outline and research and tweak our characters is so that we can uncover the diamond beneath the rough.
Know where you’re going even if you don’t know how to get there yet.
This is where the magic of writing takes place. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser, knowing the plot will enrich your story. Once you have an idea of what you want, you can make steps toward that goal. This is what we call vision and can be utilized in all areas of your life. But what does this look like to writers?
In the case of Harry Potter, the author takes seven books to explore this world she created and grow the characters. She unravels a massive mystery surrounding Harry’s past and his connection to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Without giving away any spoilers (but really, you should have at least seen the movies by now), each book has a villain connected with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and a plot, a mystery which Harry and his friends must solve to save their school–Hogwarts Academy.
Plot looks like this:
Conflict is the “foreshadowing” of the climax. Throughout the seven books of Harry Potter, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is mentioned, hinted at, discussed in secret, then glimpsed, shadowed, and finally revealed. That is the climax, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s final reveal. The falling action then is the battle of good verses evil, and the resolution wraps up the battle with a winner rising from the ashes.
I freaking love JK Rowling.
To build your own plot more clearly, try this exercise. Describe your story in one sentence. Take that sentence and explain it in five sentences.
E.g. Jane’s family is cursed, and a stranger takes it upon himself to help her break the curse.
Jane’s family is cursed by an ancient dragon cult. When her curse results in a fire to a local middle school, one teacher is the only one to take notice. Instead of alerting the authorities, the teacher, John, coerces her to meet up. She tells him all about the curse, where it started, and how her family has been managing it. John convinces her to take up a quest to break the curse.
In only five sentences, you now have 1) Introduction, 2) Conflict, 3) Climax, 4) Falling Action, and 5) Resolution.
Now take the first sentence and write five sentences to explain it. Do that with each sentence so you have five paragraphs of plot. You can grow this exercise in compounding explanations until you’re satisfied with the information. If you get stuck halfway through the story, you can also use this exercise to help yourself out of a hole.
Practice this with the plotline of your story until you’re satisfied. Has this helped you? Did it make your plot more clear? Write your experience in the comments.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.