Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Before You Write, You Need a Plot

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
"Before You Write, You Need a Plot." by Joan Y. Edwards

In 2007 I discovered that it is important to have the plot for your story before you write it. The expression on my face was similar to the girl with the wide eyes in the picture above. "What? I need a plot? 

I knew beginning, middle, and end.   
I had problems. 
However, I didn't have all the other pieces neatly laid out in a plan for my story in a plot before I wrote it.

A plot is a chain of events in a story that goes from the beginning to the end to prove or show a particular universal theme that shows emotional and physical actions and reactions of a main character and how he reorganizes his ideas after several setbacks in order to win and survive happily.

You must have a problem to have a plot. No problem - no plot - no story.
A good plot puts complications in motion that stop the main character from solving his problem and reaching his goal.
A good plot uses the best logical order for events that makes a story easy to understand.
  1. cause and effect relationship in chronological order
  2. cause and effect relationship in flashback and foreshadowing - not chronological order (can start in the middle of things and go forward, backward, or into the future
  3. events that happen in chronological order, but are coincidence, not cause and effect


Ordinary Day Exposition (Beginning)

  1. Start your story with a day that starts out ordinary. Start it out on a day and time when your character is happy. It describes the way it is. It explains the existing setting, order of things; present customs, practices, and power relations with other characters.
  2. Don’t put all of the backstory on one page. Backstory includes the events that happened before your story began. It's the background information about your characters. Spread your backstory out in your novel. Give the readers only what they need to know to understand a particular action or reaction.If the reader doesn't need to know your character failed a math test in third grade at the beginning of the story, take it out and put it in right before he takes a math test. This will show the motive of why he’s scared to take the test.

Rising Action (Problems)

  1. Call to Action. The inciting incident. What happened to cause the character to want to reach this new goal. What conflicts/obstacles face the main character if he is to reach his goal?
  2. Dream Stage, Event happens that your main character can't ignore. It affects his life in more ways than he ever imagined it could.
  3. Frustration Stage, Each try gets him deeper in despair.
  4. Nightmare Stage It's his worst nightmare. This is the bottom of the barrel for the character.

Climax (Middle) (The Fight, Face to Face Encounter with Problem)

  1. Main Character changes for the better. The main character has an inner realization of the true meaning of all the events in the story leading up to this moment. This spiritual “aha” moment promotes a significant change in his ways of thinking and his behavior.
  2. Climax is the major conflict. This is the big scene that decides whether the main character gets what he wants or needs.
  3. Main character must face the problem. He can’t ignore it any more. This is the battle scene.
  4. It is the peak of suspense. 
  5. The main character experiences the height of anxiety, nervousness, and tension both mentally and physically.
  6. For the readers, this is the most exciting part of the story because of the uncertainty of how everything is going to turn out. There is a mixture of fear, danger, and hope. There is an air of “It can’t work out for him. It’s going to be bad." Followed by the amazement and surprise: “Oh my gosh, he’s doing it. Everything will be better.”

Falling Action (Result of Climax Encounter)

  1. The protagonist wins or loses. I was always confused by this. I thought this was still in the climax. However, the fight, the face to face confrontation is the climax.  The result of the fight or face to face, head-on confrontation is the falling action.
  2. Falling Action shows the changes to the characters who are affected by the solution to the main problem.
  3. Shows what happens to the main character after overcoming all obstacles
  4. Shows what happens to the main character if he fails to get his wishes.
  5. Shows what happens to both the good dudes and the bad dudes after the protagonist wins or loses.
  6. Things begin to be normal again.

Resolution (End)

  1. It shows the effects of his winning or losing with the other characters and shows what happens to untie the subplots, too.
  2. It shows that the main character has solved all problems and mysteries.
  3. It brings satisfying closure to the situation.
  4. The outcome turns the protagonist’s life into all new and better ordinary day. He's happy once again.
  5. If it’s a tragedy, it ends with a catastrophe where the main character dies.

Enjoy writing good stories. Build a strong plot for your next story. A good story shows the emotional highs and lows of the character(s). A good story has tension on every page. Make it the best plot you've ever designed for a picture book, young adult, or adult novel. Go ahead. Write the next Best-Selling Book. You can do it.

Joan's Elder Care Guide, 4RV Publishing, June 2014.
Joan's website: 


  1. Joan,
    Great summary of all that's required for a good plot. Thanks for all the tips, especially the one stating that a plot is needed before the story is written.

  2. Dear Linda,
    Thank you very much for writing. You're welcome for all the tips. I am honored that you believe I gave a great summary of all that's required in a good plot. Good luck with all your writing.

    Believe in you
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Joan, great explanation 'how to' of plot. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Dear Karen,
    Thanks for writing. I'm glad you believe I gave a great explanation of "how to" plot. You always have great things to say to others. I appreciate that trait of yours. You are a jewel.

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  5. Very nice article. Make trouble for the hero/heroine. The more the better. :) Great advice.

  6. Dear Beverly,
    Thank you for writing. I am glad you read and liked this article. You are right. The more trouble you make for the hero or heroine, the better. Celebrate you and your writing.