Plot planning or adding to your plot idea
Plot planning, or adding to your initial idea, is an important part of writing a book as just having a good idea for a story is not going to grab the attention of the reader.
Let’s first look at what a story is and here I am using one of the definitions from the Longman Dictionary of the English Language It states that a story is an account of incidents or events. That’s it! So we can all write a story, but adding to the idea and plot planning are what make a story gripping, amusing, heart-warming or any of the dozens of adjectives that you could use to describe a story.
So what does a story need to make it attractive to editors, publishers and finally the reader?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote of his theories in Poetics in about 335BC and his ideas still stand to this day. I have tried to read up on his theories and they are, quite frankly, too complicated for words, so I would rather put forward this quotation from his writing which, to me, sums up the main ingredient of a story. “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is striving and reaching out for his goals.”
Adding to your idea or plot planning
Some of what is required for a story has already been covered in our article creative writing ideas, so now you need to plan your plot further by adding many situations where the protagonist is reaching out for goals but is thwarted by conflicts which escalate to a point where the reader cannot put the book down, and finally a resolution is reached.
Put simply, a story should either be about the transformation of a situation or a character, and should have an initial problem, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution.
Now remember that you need to keep the reader in the story throughout, but grabbing the reader’s attention right at the beginning is certainly of the utmost importance. This is especially so these days when one can go online and read the first chapter of many books before buying.
Once you have caught the attention of the reader you need to set the scene, mood and tone of the story and introduce the protagonist and minor characters, deciding which of the minor characters is to be the antagonist.
When thinking about your protagonist (main character) ask yourself why the reader should care about this person. Remember that if they don’t care about the main character they won’t care about your story either.
So you need to paint a picture of the main character and his or her life, and add oodles of tension which is created by describing unfulfilled desires. Now bring in the minor character or characters who usually serve as the antagonist and provide the setbacks and crisis that initiate the action.
The more tension you create as the story unfolds the better, as that is what holds the reader’s attention and keeps him or her turning the pages. In our article on creative writing we covered all the different genres of books that you can write, and it would depend on which genre you are writing as to what the crisis is that alters your character’s world.
• Adventure could involve a journey to a new land
• Children’s books may involve moving to a new school
• Myth, fantasy and science fiction, often involve a prophecy or revelation that the main character is destined for great things
• Crime fiction involves a crisis that could be a new and seemingly unsolvable case
• Romance involves a crisis of the heart such as going through a divorce.
In each case, though, you need to emotionally engage the reader in the main character’s life which, at the end of the story, will never be the same again.
Plot planning and introducing crisis into the protagonist’s life:
• Begin the story by allowing your main character to have what is most desired and then take it away
• Deny your main character what is most desired and then have him strive for it throughout the story.
Readers often enjoy stories that have many interwoven plots and it has become popular to move backwards and forwards in time as well. I personally avoid these stories like the plague as I find them very confusing. After all I read for relaxation and don’t wish to concentrate too much when reading a book!
You do need at least two crises that interweave throughout the narrative, and these are often an internal struggle and an external struggle that need to be surmounted. The consequences of not unraveling these problems need to escalate as the story moves on and draws the reader in to the story until the climax is reached. This climax usually involves the protagonist making a discovery that will change his life or, at the very least, the way he looks at life.
So to recap when plot planning you should:
• Paint a portrait of the protagonist’s life so that the reader can picture his world
• Make the reader care about what happens to the main character
• Provide one or more crisis or struggle to be solved, or goal to be reached
• Raise the stakes as the character battles to come to terms with the challenges
• End the story in an unexpected way that shows a transformation of the main character’s life.
Well that’s it for plot planning and adding to your idea. I hope that this article has helped you in some way and, should you need any further advice, don’t hesitate to contact us.