Creative Write with Me #3: Plot

            Welcome to the third installment of Creative Write with Me! You don’t need to read these in a specific order, but you can check out the previous two installments, Brainstorming and Characters.

            Plot: the plot is everything that happens in a book. It’s determined by the world (setting) and the decisions and actions of the characters.

            When I plot a story of any length, I always start with a series of bullet points containing very simple, brief sentences. As long as I’ve picked a starting point or inciting incident, I can use what I know about the characters to determine how they would react and bring the plot to its next point. (Side note: I create my characters first. You don’t have to.)

            Two important things to note: 1. Your original plot will probably change as you plot/write/edit. I’ve rewritten my unwritten novel’s plot over a dozen times, each time with major changes. 2. Your characters, if they are sturdy, will show you where they want to go. I often abandon the plot points I planned in favour of a natural series of events that unfold and surprise me as I write. It feels very much like I’m being pulled along behind my characters.

            There are so many ways to plot a story. The thing that keeps the doubt from seeping into my mind is this: every way to do it is the right way. You can’t possibly do it wrong because it’s your story.

            Every single story I’ve written, apart from the in-progress novels, I’ve plotted differently. Most of these are short stories, so it’s easier to change it up every time. This was so I could find a method that worked for me, but also so I could find one that worked for each story. I found that the mystery/thriller short story I wrote needed more of a web than bullet points. It just seemed to make more sense in my head, so I changed it up.

            If you’ve never plotted a story before, I would suggest starting with the bullet points. You can always change it up mid-plot or with the next plot. Either way, using Freitag’s pyramid makes it easy to create a plot that will appeal to people and be easy for you to keep track of. Before the pyramid, my writing was all over the place and never really reached a climax. You can Google what Freitag’s pyramid is, but I’ll give an overview. If you know your inciting incident, a general climax, and maybe even the ending, it becomes easier to fill in the rising action between the inciting incident and climax, and then fill in the falling action to bridge the gap between the climax and the end. The falling action is quite short, while the rising action takes a good portion of the novel to unfold and build.

            As always, these are only tips to help or inspire or prompt you to do some research. I am not an authority; I only want to use the knowledge I gained during my degree to help educate people who are into writing. If you’re looking to write fiction, I highly recommend finding a copy of Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. The latest edition is the tenth, but any will do. It will give you more knowledge than I ever could and provide you with writing exercises at the end of each chapter. It’s the textbook used for basic creative writing courses in lots of places, and it’s available from most retailers.

            Thank you for tuning into this third Creative Write with Me all about plot! Next up will be Setting, where we’ll talk about the phrase I’ve heard a thousand times: concrete sensory detail!


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