Wednesday 7 March 2012

Creating a feasible plot

I still can't quite get my head around it being March already and I haven't yet got stuck into chapter nine of my work in progress (WIP). Don't get me wrong, I'm still working on it but have gone right back to the beginning and have been editing it. Why you may ask?

Well, the more I got to know the characters, including an in-depth interview with each of them, the bigger their story became. What once started out as a 5,000 word short story, evolved into a 20,000 word novella and then 30,000 words. From there it grew to a 50,000 category romance but now, it's looking more like an 80,000 word novel.

I believe in theory that I have enough plot and conflict to fill that volume of words but I must consider the plotting and sequencing itself on the basis that each length novel would need a slightly different approach, e.g.:

  • a short story may just have a twist at the end or go straight into the happy ever after...
  • a novella may have one black moment before the happy ever after...
  • a category romance may have a grey moment as well as a black moment before the happy ever after...
  • a novel may be a variation of different techniques, which I'll touch upon now...

1. Three act story:
Beginning: open at moment of change/crisis
Middle: the grey moment and fresh hope
End: the black moment, all hopes dashed before the happy ever after
(Source: miscellaneous)

2. A trio of 'big' events - could be kiss, break-up/fight, action, plot device etc, as in:
    Page 1 - opening crisis/moment of change
    15-20K later - big event #1
    15-20K later - big event #2
    15-20K later - big event #3
    15-20K later - the end

    3. Eight plot points to make up the story and create more of a rollercoaster ride for the reader (see source for full details rather than my snapshot):
    1) Story goal - what does he/she want? For a romance this would be the 'happy ever after' or even the 'happy for now' ending.
    2) Consequence - what will happen if he/she fails?
    3) Requirements - what must he/she do/accomplish to reach goal?
    4) Forewarnings - what happens that hint at failure? In a romance, this would be the grey/black moments
    5) Costs - what must he/she sacrifice/go through?
    6) Dividends - what are the benefits of striving to reach goal?
    7) Pre-requisites - what actions must take place to meet requirements?
    8) Preconditions - what obstacles are in the way? In a romance, this would be the conflict
    All of these methods have their merit and would be individual to each writer, and presumably to each story too, come to think of it.

    To be honest, I will probably be a bit of all of them, crossing over a lot, depending on the story I am writing and which one fits best. All of these approaches will add depth and structure to my story though and help me to ensure that I have enough knowledge of the characters and of their conflict to generate a full well-rounded story around them.

    I am sure there are many other 'recommended' ways of creating a plot, so, fellow writers, it's over to you...

    Do you have a particular plot system that you follow? Have you tried various methods and finally found one that suits you? Or do you just make it up as you go?


    1. In the past, I've prepped detailed scene cards after exploring GMC/eternal plot/backstory/etc to mine for information.

      This time, I'm having a go using the Plot Whisperer's Youtube instruction videos. There are no visuals(except on her website/blog/books), but I have picked up a number of insights just by hearing someone explain and use examples. She explains by plot threads, cause&effect scenes, thematic significance, and the importance of turning point scenes to layout the plot and be able to visualize it at a glance. Enjoyed the videos(though it took a few hours to watch all of the first series, and I haven't gotten to the 2nd one yet), I'm going to give her method a try. I'm always on the lookout for methods that will help me understand my story better.

      If you're interested, first one is here(

    2. Great post, Aurelia and thanks Amalie I shall check out the video.

    3. Actually, I'm not sure that "happy ever after" or "happy for now" is the story goal. It's too vague. The hero and/or heroine must have goals that have nothing to do with the romance. That the romance only complicates, appears to get in the way of.

      1. Thanks for commenting Liz, it's always interested to hear other viewpoints.

        For me, although every HEA or HFN will be different, I think it will always be my 'story goal'. The conflict and individual character's goals would fall under 'requirements' and 'costs' - things that they must conquer or learn along the way - before I can get anywhere near my HEA 'goal'. Their emotional baggage and personal issues will be the 'pre-conditions', like the back story, and will largely be the source of the conflict that they have to overcome, by working through the 'pre-requisites' with setbacks along the way 'forewarnings', leading towards the 'consequence'. By the end of the story, they will have achieved their own inidivial goals - the 'dividends' - and will have met the 'requirements' so that I can achieve my overall 'story goal' of getting them together.

        It makes sense to me anyway LOL

    4. by attempting a 'fantasy' genre novel my plots can get a bit more outrageous! Came up with what events i wanted to happen, who would do them , what atrocities would occur.
      Then I go back and work out if my characters can actually do these things and begin to build my chapters.

      1. I must admit Shona that I'm not all that sure what I'll do for my YA trilogy... it does have a romance story embedded throughout, much like Twilight I guess, but it does demand more action and external conflict. I'll just have to wait and see ;o)

    5. Great post! Wow it really has evolved, hasn't it? I love it when a short story grows organically into so much more. I hope chapter 9 is behaving itself now :)

      1. Thanks Lacey.

        I found on more than one occasion that the characters took over and even I was surprised by what happened. Crazy, but it felt good that they were imposing themselves on the story.

        Still revising the first eight chapters, in line with new word count and changes to the plot, but it's all coming together and I have a clear direction of where they're going now.


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