What Is Your Plot?

What is your plot?
What Is Your Plot?

“What Is Your Plot?” by Joan Y. Edwards

I’ve always heard since I was a little girl that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  So plot is the beginning, middle, and end of a story. However, that’s not very specific. For me, that doesn’t ring with the explanation of all a good story has to have.

Wikipedia says: “The plot for a story is a sequence of events carried out by characters or nature where each event affects the next one through the principle of cause-and-effect.”

Beemgee states that each event in a story changes something either in the plot or in the way we, the audience or readers, perceive the characters.

In a story we tell the actions and reactions of the characters. This gives us clues to the emotions that run rampant in this situation for them. A story without a problem is not a true story.. It may list events but if they don’t cause a problem for a character, there is no real story. 

I think the following statements give better hints at what you need to make a great plot. What do you think?

1. Exposition (Beginning-Act 1)

 In the exposition, you give setting, time, and characters, both main and opposing ones along with their flaws on an ordinary day before the bottom drops out of the floor beneath the main character.

2. Inciting Incident

Inciting Incident brings the story’s major question, suspense, and action into being. It creates a problem between two or more characters in the story  –  usually the main character and an opposing character.  Usually the main character wants something and he cannot get it. Something bad happens that causes the main character a big problem both within himself and using the powers he has at the present moment, he can’t fix the problem. Show the inner and outer struggles of the main character for each event. The problem can’t be fixed with one swish. Tell who or what caused the event, how it happened? What happened as a result? 

3. Rising Action Event A (Act II)

Rising Action  Event A is the second problem or worsening of the original problem either caused because of the action, inaction, or reaction of the main character to the problem. Rising Action shows that the first thing the main character does to combat the problem makes it worse and he fails.

4. Rising Action Event B (Act II)

Rising Action Event B is the third problem or worsening of the original problem because of the action, inaction, or reaction of the main character. It may show the second thing they do to combat the problem but it doesn’t work either, It can be a complete surprise and turn the story in a different direction than readers first thought. it makes things unbearable and they believe it will stop them from succeeding with their goal.

5. Climax  (Turning Point, Middle, Act III)

Climax is the event that shows things at their very worst.  Everything seems hopeless. Something happens to make the problem so bad that the main character cannot ignore it any more which makes it the turning point of the plot. The main character is forced by circumstances beyond his control to take action to solve the problem. It’s the point of no return for the main character. He will either win everything or lose it all.  The main character uses his powers to win the fight and attain his goal, or suffer defeat forever.

6. Falling Action Event A

Falling Action – Event A Shows what happens as a result of the win or loss in the climax. It’s a different world with a better ordinary day. The main character faces new problems in a different way than he did before the climax. 

7. Falling Action Event B

in the Falling Action – Event B, the reader finds out what happened as a result of the climax part of the story. This part tends to relax the readers.  It gives readers the happy news and the sad news; of what happened because of the win or loss of the main character in the climax of the story. It tells what happened to the characters in the subplots, too.

8. Resolution (End)

Resolution is the part of the story where the conflict is over and the story concludes. The readers get a look at what the future holds for the main character and the opposing character.

EXERCISES AS FOOD FOR THOUGHT – 

List of Unrelated Events

If you have a list of unrelated events that happen and the list doesn’t tell you who or what caused the event, how it happened or why it happened, or how one event is related to another by cause or effect, it is not the full story, it is not the plot.  

Below are examples of events with no  evidence that any of the events caused one of the other events.
Could you put them in chronological order and give us reason to believe that one of them caused another one to happen.

Accident occurs at Fourth and Main Street, Middleton, Mississippi
50 dogs escape from city pound, Middleton, Mississippi
Old Folks Home closes, Middleton, Mississippi
New mayor takes office, Middleton, Mississippi
Fred Langston moves from Middleton, Mississippi

All of these could be main events and cause problems for many people. These facts, as written above, don’t tell how these events are related or how one could have caused another one. If it doesn’t tell what happened as a result of the first event or any of the events in a story, it does not relate to the plot. of this story.  Here are some words that Edusson says show cause and effect:  because, since, as, and so. Can you name others?

What are some of the keywords that tell you the sequence of events?

A few time order words from Study.com are:: ”first,” ”next,” ”after,” ”today,” ”then,” ”before,” and ”finally.”  Are there others that come to mind?

Can you figure out the time order of the following story without time and sequence words?  Adding keywords to show the sequence of events will help.

  • Santa fell down the chimney.
  • We shouted “Merry Christmas”‘
  • Santa put the gifts under the tree.
  • We offered Santa hot chocolate.
  • Santa drank his hot chocolate.
  • Santa left with a boost up the chimney.
  • We heard a noise on the roof.
  • Santa yelled “Good-bye.”

After adding key time event words, you can put this story in the correct order.

In your novel, you want to describe each plot event. You want to explain:

  • What happened? 
  • What happened as a result of an action?
  • Who or what caused it? (a person or nature that is responsible)
  • When did the event take place?
  • Where did the event take place?
  • Why did the event take place?
  • How did the event take place?

Thank you for reading my blog.  I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or question about plot. Share the plot of your favorite movie or one of your published books, or share what  helps you write a great plot? 

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Firebird Book Award Winner Flip Flap Floodle Will this little duck’s song save him from Mr. Fox?
Copyright © 2009-2021 Joan Y. Edwards

Subscribe to Joan’s blog for new articles of inspiration, information, and humor. Receive free gifts. Join over 243 subscribers and over 1,235,875 visitors. Thank you.

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Resources

  1. Hannah Muniz. Prepscholar.com. “What is Plot Definition?” https://blog.prepscholar.com/what-is-plot-definition
  2. Beemgee.com. “How to describe a full plot event,”
    https://www.beemgee.com/blog/plot-events/
  3. Carol Baldwin’s book, “Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8” also has graphic organizers in it and a CD packed with good writing process explanations: https://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Story-Fiction-Writing-Grades/dp/1934338354
  4. James Scott Bell. Writers Digest.com. “The Two Pillars of Novel Structure;” https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/the-two-pillars-of-novel-structure
  5. JerryJenkins.com. “Plot of a Story:” https://jerryjenkins.com/plot-of-a-story/
  6. joanyedwards.com. “Story Essential: Plot:” https://joanyedwards.com/2010/08/05/story-essential-plot/
  7. joanyedwards1@gmail.com. “What? I Need a Plot?”
    https://joanyedwards.com/2013/09/13/what-i-need-a-plot/ 
  8. Ken Miyamoto. Screencraft.org. “Plot Vs Story: What’s the Difference:”https://screencraft.org/2021/02/19/plot-vs-story-whats-the-difference/
  9. Kristen Kieffer. Well-storied.com. “3 Awesome Plot Structures for Building Bestsellers:” https://www.well-storied.com/blog/3-awesome-plot-structures-for-building-bestsellers/
  10. Lit Charts.com. “Plot:” https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/plot What is the Plot of a Story? – Definition & Examples – Psychology Class [2021 Video] | Study.com
  11. LitCharts.com. “Plot – Definition and Examples:” https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/plot
  12. Penlighten. “What Does Resolution of Story Mean?” https://penlighten.com/what-does-resolution-of-story-mean#
  13. Study.com. “Sequence of Events Lesson:” https://study.com/academy/lesson/sequence-of-events-lesson-for-kids.html
  14. Study..com. “What is the Plot of a Story? Definition and Examples https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-the-plot-of-a-story-definition-examples.html
  15. Template Lab.com. “45 Professional Plot Diagram Templates (Plot Pyramid)” https://templatelab.com/plot-diagram-templates/
  16. Templates.ehq.net. “Plot Diagram Templates:” https://www.templatehq.net/plot-diagram-templates.html
  17. Wikipedia. “Plot:”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plot_(narrative)#:~:text=Plot
  18. Your dictionary.com. “Plot of a Story Examples:”https://examples.yourdictionary.com/reference/examples/plot-of-a-story-examples.html
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20 thoughts on “What Is Your Plot?”

  1. There is a big difference between reality and entertainment.
    As a retired Detective Sergeant form the UK police, I know from personal experience how investigations are undertaken.
    You are nearly always dealing with the end result of someone’s actions ending in a serious crime.

    For the reader the author has to decide, does the book start like a lamb or a lion. Because that’s the way it happens in real life, but to write about reality would be really boring. So this is where the kills of the writer have to come to play.

    Does the start begin with the main subject or is he/she in the background or not featured in the beginning. In my book ‘Cindy where you?’ The opening chapters feature a young pubescent girl called Mary who is being unknown to her mother raped by her stepfather. The plot in the beginning is about her and her escape from his clutches as she has become pregnant by him. But then after a visit home to collect some clothes she goes missing. Did he kill her…….?
    The reader is left thinking why is the book called ‘Cindy where are you?’

    So you have the beginning and now the middle as other things happen bringing Cindy into story. Then a true investigation begins with twists and turns. Leading to a dramatic end.

    But in real life it didn’t happen that way so I had to plan and lay down sequence of events then convert into a story that would keep readers on their toes, so it becomes a page turner.

    I am talking about my perspective as a crime writer, and of course many authors write many books of different genres, but to capture the reader there has to be an element of intrigue using the same principles.

    I know from experience that not all sequence of events and plots end up as intended. One book I started ‘Gift or curse.’ Was written in the beginning as a murder mystery, but ended up as a spy thriller. That is the writers privilege, being able to add or take away.

    So in order to achieve your goal lay your characters out in brief, but with the writers licence to change what they are or what they do, or did.

    And don’t forget you must be able to adapt, change and edit your pages. Someone once wrote ‘you can’t edit an empty page.’ Sitting there looking at an empty page will not make a story. What if it’s rubbish, who will know only you. So write, and write, then edit.

    You may reach a crossroads, then you ask which way? But remember if it goes wrong, the crossroads is always there, go back and take another road.

    So in short plan your characters and plots, but be adaptable to change.

    You will make mistakes, I know because I have made so many, but most importantly, is to get someone else to proof read. Then read and re-read and take note of any comments. Up to you if you use them.

    If I can make one comment, which is, don’t over embellish just to fill out pages. Fill your pages with intrigue, so you capture the readers imagination without him or her getting bored with some superfluous subjects that have no bearing on the plot.

    Happy writing

    David

    1. Dear Carol,
      Thank you for writing. That’s a good name for my post – A refresher course on plot. I know what you mean. A plot can be totally elusive and confusing at times. So many people have opinions and many times when I read them, I get a little confused. So I hope I didn’t confuse the situation. Good luck writing all of your plots!

      Never Give Up
      Joan

    2. Dear Carol,

      Thank you for the incites shared.
      Kindly keep the connection.
      It’s the light we share.

      Best regards,.
      Tom

      1. Dear Tom,
        Thank you for writing. I appreciate your being a subscriber for a long time. I hope my posts help you with your writing and your personal aspirations!

        Never Give Up
        Joan

  2. I know it’s not easy, especially with other distractions, such as work, kids, mortgage to pay etc. Unless you’re under a contract to produce, take time and enjoy.

    Of course it’s frustrating at times, but make sure you tie your lap top, type writer, and/or pad to the desk, as there will be times you want to pick them up and throw them out the window. Ha ha been there and nearly done that too.

    Good luck

  3. Joan, this is an excellent review of, and I agree with Carol, refresher for, planning a book’s plot. Keeping these plot points in mind while writing is difficult, but so helpful. I agree with David, too, that often plots seem to make their own way into areas we hadn’t planned. I love those happy accidents, sometimes they make the story! But they still need to have a pattern, and your outline and comments above highlight that. I am saving this in my bookmarks to refer to when I start my next book (the plot in my head is being awfully unruly). Thanks, Joan!

    1. Dear Maura Beth,
      Thank you for your comments. Sometimes a plot can come from a chance meeting. I say this because in my book ‘Gift or curse.’ I had recently arrived in Spain to live. I knew little of the area or people. Whilst in a queue in the bank, I met a woman who kindly invited me for a coffee and talk about the location we were in.

      She invited me to meet her husband and we to this day remain good friends. But whilst having coffee she informed she was a tarot card reader. The cogs in my brain started to whiz around and I started a murder mystery. But wanted to include a tarot card reader as a source of intrigue.

      I asked the woman for a reading because I wanted to use her knowledge as factual research. I was sceptical about it, but she told me a number of things including I would meet my current partner who was from overseas. Taking no notice of her. I thanked her and used her techniques in my book.

      David

      Some 3 weeks later I met a woman from Holland who was on holiday in Spain. She has been my partner for some 5 years now.

      I digress but you never know when something perfectly innocent can turn into something you can use.

      I refer to another one of books ‘Seat 3F.’ Whilst on a flight to Spain from the UK I was allocated seat 3F. A woman in the same row was in the middle row so I offered her the window seat I was in. Then my cogs in my mind began whirring around, saying to myself, what if a woman targets men who sit in seat 3f.

      So again I digress, but what I am saying is, a plot can be drawn from quite simple meetings or situations, or can change a current plot. Obviously not every meeting, but if you allow your mind to whizz it is surprising what you can imagine.

      Good luck

    2. Dear Maura Beth,
      Thank you for writing and letting me know that you believe my plotting points will help you plan your next plot. That makes me feel great because I wrote it in hopes of helping writers like you design great plots for stories.
      Thanks for reading Carol Baldwin’s and David Parle’s comments.
      I hope you will consider subscribing to my blog.
      Never Give Up
      Joan

      1. Dear Joan, I thought I had subscribed quite a while ago, but will double check. I often read your posts and your encouragement to keep writing and submitting gave me much solace in the first days of my writing. I thank you for that!! Best of luck to you in all you do!

        1. Dear Maura Beth,
          Glad you have been reading my posts since 2018. I checked and you are subscribed. That makes me smile. Thanks for subscribing.

          I enjoy encouraging you and others to continue writing! Keep on writing. The world needs to hear your story.

          Never Give Up
          Joan

  4. I’m to the point with the 4th book in my It Happened series, to start the outline. I know the characters well as I’ve done detailed character sketches on them.

    I also know the ‘how’ and the ‘where’ and the ‘why’ and even the ‘when’ so it’s just a matter of getting those woven into a sequence that will make for an interesting novel when it’s finished.

    1. Dear Melanie,
      Thanks for writing. I’m so glad that you have almost all of the ingredients for you new novel worked out. Putting them in the correct sequence with direct cause and effect will be great

      Never Give Up
      Joan

  5. Joan,

    Plot is hard to master, but your tips are helpful to those who seek guidance. So proud of your stick-to-it-ness!

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thank you very much for writing. You are right. Plotting is difficult to master. Thanks for saying that my tips will be helpful to those who seek guidance. How sweet of you to say that!

      Never Give Up
      Joan

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