#14 Plotting 101: Unravelling the Elements of Plot
The Elements of Plot
The Elements of plot can be as simple as beginning, middle or end. Alternatively,? you can use complex structures that would make your literary professor salivate. In this article, I share my plot structure methodology because it’s simple, comprehensive and visual. That last benefit is a bonus.
A quick reminder before we embark on the guided tour of this phenomenal device. Plot is the dramatic structure into which the story fits. On the contrary, story is the chronological sequence of events. As authors, we take our chronological story, cut it into pieces and then reorder it for the most dramatic effect.
My Restructuring of Plot Elements
Plot was always difficult to understand so I scoured the internet for answers. To my great relief, I discovered Ellen Brock’s tutorial on plot and my structure is heavily influenced by her work. Each plot structure slot is called a plot point or PP. Here are the PPs all story’s should have.
- PP0: Introduction
- PP1: Inciting Event
- PP2: Rising Action
- PP3: The Turning Point
- PP4: The Puzzle
- PP5: The Trials
- PP6: The Climax
- PP7: The Falling Action
- PP8: The Denouement or Resolution
As mentioned in my previous post, all plots start with an introduction because readers need to be introduced to your story world. You can use the beginning to introduce your characters, their conflicts and their overaching motivations that drive the plot forward.
For example: We are introduced to a young man living with his aunt, uncle and cousin in rough conditions. He is treated very badly. We learn that strange things happen around this young boy and that his prospects for the future are grim.
PP1: Inciting Event
The inciting incident stems from an internal or external force in which events alter your characters lives forever. The event is large enough that they cannot return to their lives as they once were. In heroic tales, this is the call to adventure. I have always loved that expression. Something, usually very bad or very good happens and the adventure begins.
For example: Our young boy receives a letter which his family try hide from him. Their attempts are futile because the mail keeps coming in larger and stranger ways. until his uncle flees with the family. They travel to a remote island where it’s impossible to receive mail. A half-giant on a flying motorcycle kicks down their cabin door to hand deliver tan invitation for the young boy to a school for magic.
PP2: Rising Action
The rising action or pinch point is where the opposing forces or characters place an obstacle in your main character’s path. The villain or antagonist does something to raise the stakes and makes it personal.
For example: The young boy discovers he is famous. Furthermore, he attends the same school his parents did but he does not have their aptitude making it hard to fit in. He wants to find out more about his past and adjust to his new world.
PP3: The Turning Point
One usually finds this plot point in the middle of the story. Despite struggling at first, your character finally begins to adjust and starts to thrive or make substantial progress. Consequently, a huge clue is revealed to keep the protagonist on his/her journey. Alternatively, someone or something reminds your character of the reason they are on this journey.
For example: The young boy discovers that an evil dark lord murdered his parents. However, something went wrong during the attack and he destroyed himself and left the boy unharmed. It was a miracle.
PP4: The Puzzle
This is the second pinch point where there is some mystery or puzzle for the protangonist to solve. Once he/she solves the puzzle it further ups the ante on the reason to go through with the journey. Additionally, the story usually introduces a further obstacle that makes the journey even more challenging.
For example: The boy discovers that the government contracted the school to guard a magical stone that gives eternal life. Someone attacks the boy in the forest and a helper arrives in time to save him and reveals that the evil dark lord attacked him in a weakend state. He receives an invisibility cloak as his inherentance and uses it to roam around his school in the middle of the night. He discovers the dark lord attempted to steal the magic stone to come back to full power.
PP5: The Trials
This plot point is fundamental for buildiing tension towards your climax. The protagonist must prove himself/herself worthy or ready to face the antagonist. Therefore, he/she completes a series of trials to get to the final showdown.
For example: The boy does not want his parents’ murderer to rise to power again and that same villain now wants to kill the boy. He has to stop him so he and his friends decide to find the stone before the villain and so they navigate a labrinth of defenses to get to it in time.
PP6: The Climax
This plot point is the big show down between good and evil. It contains the most action and drama.
For example: The boy has to go through the final trial alone and faces the villain that tried to kill him only to find one of his teachers as the perpetrator. The evil one reveals himself as inhabiting the teacher’s body. The teacher under instruction from the dark lord once again attempts to kill the boy but burns up when they touch and the boy passes out.
PP7: The Falling Action
The various issues are resolved and the story winds down with all plots and sub-plots coming to a satisfactory end. The audience mulls over the story and reflects on what the story taught.
For example: The boy wakes up in hospital and his principal explains the strange events and how the boy survived. Furthermore, the professor notes that he and the authorities will destroy the stone because it’s too powerful and should not fall in the wrong hands.
PP8: The Denouement or Resolution
The denouement or resolution is the logical end of the story and ties things off with a neat bow or cliffhanger.
For example: The boy and his friends earn points to help their house win the house cup. After making friends for life, learning magic, and going on a life-threatening adventure, the boy returns home to his aunt and uncle’s home for the summer.
Summarising The Elements of Plot
In conclusion, plot is essential to a good story and the right structure makes it easy to develop a great plot. Of course, I used a little known story called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to demonstrate how one could fit the story into the various elements of plot correctly.
For more details on plot check out my blog or podcast where I share a ton of resources to further your education. If you liked this article, please subscribe and sign up to my email list to get notifications of more great content like this. Now that you know how to plot, get to plotting that next great novel.