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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

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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/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