Thinking about Plot

Every story needs a plot but what is it and how do you write it?

Plot is simply what happens to your character.

Definition of Plot: It is the series of events, which can be chronological or told with some flashbacks, which move the story from the beginning to the end.

For there to be story, something has to move or to change. Something goes from point A to point B. 
This change could be:

  • A physical event: Point A =a killer is picking people off. Point B = the police arrest the killer.

  • A decision: Point A = Your main character is expected to become a lawyer like his father. Point B = character has followed his dream and become a ballet dancer.

  • A change in a relationship: Point A = Two people meet and hate each other. Point B = They fall in love.

  • A change in a person: Point A = The main character is selfish and hard to live with. Point B = the character has learned to be a better person. (With this type of story, be careful not to patronise the reader or to come over as too preachy)

  • A change in the reader’s understanding of a situation: Point A = Everything points to this character as the murderer. Point B = The reader realizes that character is innocent. Someone else is the killer.

  • Circumstances may never change but everything changes: Point A = your character dreams of escaping his small town. Point B = His dream is dashed. (Think of the Christmas classic, It’s a wonderful life)

So, what is plot? It’s the road map that takes your story from point A to point B.

When writing your plot:

  • Where possible, plan ahead. Have a clear idea of what sort of story you’re going to write.
  • If you have no plot you end up writing a narrative or an essay.
  • Drip-feed your plot throughout the story.
  • Try to think of the unexpected. Use the question, ‘What if?’ and look for the unusual/the road not normally taken.
  • Don’t let your reader get too comfortable.
  • Use the element of surprise.
  • Use the setting to create the unexpected.

Think of the movie/novel “Stand By Me” The Body by Stephen King. The story is a coming of age story about a group of kids who go off to find a body. The body is not the most important thing about the story. What is important, is what they discover about themselves and each other while they are on their way to find the body. That’s what makes the story memorable.

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