What Is Plot?

In this, another of my writing tips page, I share what are my opinions, you may agree or not, but I do hope you find what I have to share helpful. A plot is a casual sequence of events. It draws the reader in to the characters’ lives and so the reader understands the choices the characters make. It is the story, the start, middle and the end.

The opening is a vital component of the story. It must grab the reader and give them a need to know more. Introduce the main character from the outset and pose the story’s conflict or question that needs to be resolved. No plot is without conflict /crisis / change.

The type of conflict can be social, circumstance or emotional. Conflict is critical to the story as it is this point that change occurs to your main character. Having conflict gives drama or suspense to the story. In a short story there is usually only one crisis as words are limited.

In a novel, you may have many moments of drama as the word count is so large and it is these moments of suspense that makes the reader want to turn the page to find out what happens next. This all happens in the middle of your book.

The end of the story should arrive at a natural conclusion. All threads teased out through your characters actions and the storyline must be neatly sewn up at the end. It does not need to be a happy ending always, but it must be a satisfying end for the reader. The reader must be left feeling good, that justice was served.

SOURCES FOR PLOT IDEAS: 

  • Your personal experience is best
  • Other people’s experiences, hearing stories or conversations.
  • Research
  • Imagination, what if…? why does…? 
  • Observation: newspapers, magazines, sitting in a café, theatre etc.

If writing historical or setting your story in locations you may not have visited then you need to do research. 

You must give the reader a sense of being there with your characters so knowing the historical era is vital to draw your reader in.

As a writer, observation of life needs to be developed. The five senses, taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell all need to be triggered. The most powerful of the senses is smell; it can arouse so many emotions and memories.

The idea for a story is its theme. This could be romance, murder, historical or fantasy etc.  

POV (Point of View) Who is telling the story?

It is usually either written in the first person or third person. When writing in the first person, the sentences have a tendency to be short and snappy. The story is being told from one person’s point of view so can be trickier to deal with. as the main character can only describe what he/she thinks the other characters feel. It is only the narrator’s view we have to believe to tell us the truth. When using the third person, it is more comfortable to write as each character has a voice and the narrator just fills in the background. Writing in the second person can/has been done but is unusual.

Consider the following: It is late on a Saturday night and a crowd are queuing to get into the local nightclub. An argument takes place between two people and a fight erupts. Regarding points of view, there are many. There are the two people who started the argument, there are those who were within earshot, there is the club doorman who is keeping an eye on proceedings and then the Gardaí when they arrive. So you have many points of view so therefore you have many different descriptions of the one event. From whose POV would you tell the story from? You could use it as an exercise and try different POV, see what you are comfortable writing in.

Bear the following in mind when writing your story:

Exposition———-Complication————Climax————–Resolution   

 “When written in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity”                  

John F Kennedy, April 12th 1959. 

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