#13 Plotting 101: An Introduction to Plot
A Proper Introduction to Plot
This article is an introduction to plot and the first of a 5-week series which answers two questions: what is a plot and which elements make up the plot? If you are an aspiring author, use this guide because it will help you craft a solid plot that drives your story forward and captures the hearts of your readers.
Defining Plot Versus Story
Story is a series of events recorded in chronological order and on the other hand, plot is a series of events arranged? deliberately to reveal dramatic, thematic and emotional significance. Your plot is what the readers follow in your book because you have arranged it in a way that best tells the story.
Pro Tip: First draft your story chronologically from start to finish and once complete, draft your plot, by rearranging the order of events. For example, start your story In Medias Res (Latin for ?into the middle of things?), which is usually an action scene that draws readers in and then slows things down to flashback to the start.
The Elements of Plot
An introduction to plot would not be complete without noting its elements. The plot is made up of a defined structure which you can think of as slots, becuase you carve up your story into chucks and dropped them into the structure. Interestingly, you can change the emphasis of a novel by changing the sequence in which you tell it.
Pro Tip: Practice creating plot by taking a simple story from childhood like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Cut the story into its various parts, and slip those parts into different slots, creating several variations of the story. Document what the effect of starting the story at the start, middle or end does to the story. What was emphasised in the different versions? This technique will help you gain a firm grasp on the plot.
Elements of the plot include:
- Introduction or Exposition
- Inciting Incident
- Rising Action
- Falling Action
- Resolution or Denouement
Introduction or Exposition
In the beginning, you introduce your setting, characters, the main conflicts and the driving motivations that propel the story forward because this orientates your readers.
A significant event occurs which changes the character forever and so forcing him/her to embark on a journey towards a specific goal.
Various complications arise along the way towards the goal and increase the intensity of the conflicts. Everything builds up towards the main event.
The final battle, the big showdown or the major self-discovery is the moment to which the entire story builds. This is your punchline or your main point where the most action, drama, change or excitement occurs.
The wind-down where things settle post-climax and your characters, the world, and everything is forever changed in some way. Your story slows down, and you begin to tie up loose ends and allow readers to reflect on all the events.
Resolution or Denouement
This is your final statement which fits across multiple chapters, pages, paragraphs or lines and wraps up the story. The characters resolve all remaining issues, and the story ends. Alternatively, you can leave a gap allowing you to continue the story in another book if it is part of a series.
You can make your plot more sophisticated by writing a series or longer story. Consequently, each book will have all elements of the plot and will fit into the broader series plot. Add sub-plots which deviate from the main plot to enrichen it. Examples include sub-plots that characterise, world-build, develop a theme, and the most popular, develop a romance. Sub-plots also contain all the elements of the plot.
The Big Takeaway to Introducing Plot
In conclusion, plot is the canvas on which you will paint a vivid story. There are specific elements or slots where you can deliberately rearrange your story for the most dramatic impact. Additinally, you can have a plot within a plot for a series or several sub-plots for depth.
However, spend sufficient time planning your novel because you don?t want to write yourself into a corner. Keep your plots as simple as possible even if you have multiple sub-plots. Trying to make it complicated will only lead to disaster. Our most memorable stories are all simple at their core.
And that is all you need to know about plot. In my podcast, I share my favourite plot in a novel and what makes it so compelling.
Look out for future articles, which delve deeper into the specific elements of plot and the common pitfalls authors face. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the blog and share it with someone you feel could benefit from the message.