Saturday July 28, 2018: Plot Design 1
Ah, finally the last part of concept, the plot, the roadmap, the story….. This is going to a little longer than other posts, but I will try to keep it brief.
What is Plot? For me it’s both the roadmap and the story. When somebody tells you about a good movie, they usually give you a quick review of the plot. Stories can be character driven, where the characters initiate the actions of the story/plot. They can also be plot driven where characters react to the plot. There are also different factors to consider when plotting your story. I will be covering 5 essential elements.
- Premise/Story Summary: First thing before we can plot is knowing what is your story about? Many books often stress that you should be able to pitch or tell your story with one sentence. In that sentence you need to make it interesting. Yeah, that is the hardest part. Most often than not this sentence will drive the blurb on the back of a novel. For my book, Lust, I have a villian that raped and murdered a family. A retired detective returns to train a group of psychic detectives to find a rapist who murdered a family. My word count is 20 and most other books will tell you to keep it around 15. In my summary I told you who the book is about (retired detective, group of psychic detectives), what they are going to do (find the rapist). That is my story and anything I write, should always be related to that summary.
- Genre: Depending on your media they are several genres. In film you have romance, thrillers, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. In literature your crime fiction, erotica, westerns, and pretty much everything the film genres have. You can even combine two genres together like in urban fantasies and romantic comedies. Everyone has their own definition of genre and as part of your research you should find out what genres are for your particular media. For me, I stated earlier that I like fantasy, mystery, and action. All three can be seen in films, literatures, and television. Genre is similar to your story summary in that it gives you parameters to write, so that the audience can identify your story. Setting and plot often decide your genre. For example if you’re writing about cowboys, you are most likely writing a western piece. Unless you’re adding another genre element like sci-fi (Cowboys and Aliens). I like fantasy because there is usually a magical system. If I chose Sci-Fi I would have to do more research on science, technology, biology, etc. Yes, fantasy also demands that you explain the magical system which can be complex (Lord of the Rings) or simple (Avatar the Last Airbender, Fullmetal Alchemist). I’m writing fantasy/mystery so I need a magical system (psychic abilities). The mystery elements I need you can see on crime shows: the crime and the victim.
- Characters: The main characters can’t sit around doing nothing. They need to drive the story or react to the story. This is the part where you come up with a villian who opposes the protagonist. There also has to be a supporting cast. Every character should either help or hinder your protagonist. Characters aren’t just relegated to individuals. The setting can be a character (Twister). Your character could be fighting against something internally like alcholism. The point is that characters create conflict which can be seen as man vs man, man vs nature, and man vs himself. Man vs man and man vs nature are usually external conflicts. Man vs himself is internal. A good story to me should have both internal and external conflicts. Conflicts help characters grow and good antagonists and supporting cast members make your story more interesting. In my book my villian is going to be ISFP, I won’t reveal her archetype or anything else. The main supporting character is a detective for the police and a friend of Ares, who is going to be ISTJ and his archetype is The Businessman. Internal conflicts in my book comes with their abilities and the psychological effect using them has. Conflict and characters, your book needs them.
- Every story and plot needs a beginning, middle, and end. This sequence is the order of events the story takes place. This is where story and plot are different. To use an example lets look at Miss Muffet. Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating Little miss Muffet she sat on her tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey Along came a spider who sat down beside her And frightened miss Muffet away. The plot tells you what happen and in the order of events. The story? Well you could say the story is about her being afraid of spiders, but that is flat. Dead. Not interesting. The sequence of any story can be broken down into three acts. This gives your story structure. In each act there are scenes that help move the story along. Save the Cat references 15 beats. Book in a Month references 10 key scenes. Act 1 usually needs a setup, a catalyst that gets the story motion, and a segway into the new world the character ends up in. Act 2 usually has some sort of triumph or success that leads to a failure. In some stories this is reversed. The triumph/failure or failure/triumph usually leads to a dark moment which also segways into the third act. The third act is where the final confrontation takes place and the resolution happens. There are plenty of books on story structure, personally I like Book in a Month. My structure basically goes: A family is murdered, a group of friends are attacked by a ghost, Ares saves them. Act 2 Ares trains them and they investigate the murder, then they are ambushed. They confront the murderer in Act 3 and well Il’ll let you read the ending.
- The last part of plotting is filling the spots in between the key scenes. Again, I use Save the Cat so I try to keep with having only 40 scenes. Each scene leading up to one of the key scenes. This is part is called outlining and can be fluid. My outline has changed plenty of times to accommodate character changes, setting changes, etc.
Whew, I hope you find that informative. I know it’s quick, but there are books on genre writing, story structure, and building characters. I will have some of the ones I used listed at the end.
Thanks for reading and Be Terrific!
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