GUEST POST: WRITING LESSON 2 BY DAVID KUMMER

Plot

Your plot gives you the settings, the characters, the events, the guidance, the motivation, and much more. Think it’s important? You bet your Bloopinsingtonburg coins.

Welcome to Lesson #1 of this writing course. In it, we will study plot: What is it? Why is it important? How to make it better? And much more!

What is plot?

Plot is, more or less, the story. It’s an umbrella-term that includes lots of aspects: Events, Characters, Theme, etc. It may be the most over-used, least-thought-about word in relation to writing.

Let’s take a second and construct a plot. Maybe you have an idea for a novel already, just a little kernel of idea-ness. The plot is the first step to making that a real book.

Plot-Making: Method #1

Who?

There are a few ways to craft a plot. The easiest -and usual- way is to take that idea you have and just add to it.

Let’s say you had an idea about… a woman who kidnaps kids. (This may or may not be the actual plot for one of my novels. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna use the real storyline.) How could you turn that into a plot?

Well, first off you ask some Who questions. “Who does she kidnap?” Maybe she kidnaps a little kid or maybe -plot twist!- she kidnaps a monkey.

“Who cares that the monkey gets kidnapped?” Well, maybe the monkey has an owner, and that owner is a big, burly man with a shotgun who looks and acts like Liam Neeson. He goes off on the kidnapper and chases her around the world.

There’s many more Who?’s you can ask, but now let’s look at the next step.

What?

To use our last example of the monkey, let’s pick up with the owner chasing the kidnapper around the world, and they end up in Paris.

“What happens in Paris?” The kidnapper barely escapes capture, getting seriously injured in the process. This gives the owner an advantage, and he uses that to take back his monkey.

“What happens at the end?” The kidnapper goes to jail, and the owner lives forever with his monkey (until the monkey stabs him, but that’s a different story.)

Overview

So, you see, to make a plot all you have to do is ask some questions. There are quite a few: Who…?, What…?, Where…?, When…?, How…? and even more!

These questions fall into different categories. There are the Character Questions (Who?, What?).

There are the Setting Questions (Where?, When?).

There are the Event Questions (What? (again), How?).

The Event Questions can be further divided into a five-point story structure, but we will study that more in the next section of this course.

Plot-Making: Method #2

There is a second, more random method of plot-making. It has many names, and there are many ways to perform it, but I’m going to call it the Passive Luck Of Timbuktu (PLOT for short).

PLOT your pants

There are many ways to perform the act of PLOTting. All of them, however, have something in common.

  1. Some sort of random, PLOT method for getting your plot.
  2. Easy organization for plot elements
  3. Add up all the PLOT elements at the end to get the real plot.

Once you see what I mean, it’s all very simple and PLOTty.

Step #1

The first step in your PLOT plot is knowing how you will select your plot elements.

“What the heck are plot elements?” you’re asking me right now. Let me tell you.

Plot elements can be many things. What the bad guy is, what the final result is, who dies, etc. For this example, let’s use two plot elements with six choices.


Element the First: Bad Guy

Choices:

1) Evil Fairy 2) Cookie Monster 3) Zombie

4) Michael Jackson 5) Vampire 6) Your Neighbor

Element the Second: Setting

Choices:

1) Farm 2) North Pole 3) New York City

4) Your Basement 5) Bloopinsingtonburg 6) Small Town

So now let’s roll a dice. Say I roll a 6 and a 4. The story is now about your neighbor (the bad guy) and happens in your basement, like so many other things.

Of course, you’d do this for many, many, MANY elements if you were writing a book. I prefer this method for short stories, as you have to do it many times for a full-length novel. Anyways, the next step.

Step #2

This kind of goes with Step #1, but you take the results and organize them.

So let’s say you had large city for a setting, criminal for a bad guy, detective for a good guy, doctor for a sidekick to the good guy, a murder for the first event, and an arrest for the conclusion.

You would take all these and organize them. First, you introduce the good guy and the sidekick in the large city. Then, you have them interact with the murder somehow (getting called by the police, maybe) and this leads to them confronting the bad guy indirectly, through investigation. At the end, the bad guy is arrested (or is he?).

And there you have it! Your plot.

Examples of PLOTting

There are plenty of PLOT tools on the internet. I’ll name just a few here. The length of plots they generate can be anywhere from a few words to multiple paragraphs.

Plot Generators:

You fill in (or choose) some information, such as genre, name, setting, etc. You’re basically doing all the work and they’re just compiling it for you, so they only do Step #2 for you. This is the least-PLOTty method. Lookie here! There’s one!

Entire Plot Generator:

This is the kind where they’re pre-written, already in an article, and the headline says “50 Plot Ideas for…” and all that. They’re kind of PLOTty, because they give you a laid-out plot idea, a kernel of an idea. However, this also just leads back to Method #1 for making a plot. Here comes one now!

(Offline) Dice Roll/Wheel Spin:

This is where you have a list of choices like we did above, and you roll a dice, spin a wheel, or anything that randomly chooses a number for you. Then, you combine all the numbers and craft a plot out of them. This is the middle-ground of PLOTtiness.

Plot Element Generator:

For these, you say which element you want, and it randomly produces one for you. Example: Stubborn 70-year-old man for the main character. These are generally used for writing exercises and short story and are very PLOTty. Check one out here.

A reminder

Not everybody plots like us! That’s very true, and not a bad thing at all! It’s quite good.

Some very creative, interesting people (we call them Pansters, they call us Plotters, neither of these are considered rude) have the method where they just write… and write… and then they’re done. There is little-to-no plotting. Just… straight up writing.

Some people are strictly plotters and always stick to exactly what their outline (the order of plot events we planned) says. Others never plot and refuse to even look at that. They just go for it, shoot for the moon. If you’re starting out, I would advise you to try to be in the middle, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. There are some great pantsed books, some great plotted books, and some great PLOTted books, too!

Why Plot Matters

You may be wondering, “Why does this even matter? Why the heck did I just spend four months reading a couple pages about plotting?” (If it took you four months to read to this point, please email me. I need to improve my writing.)

Well, first of all, getting your plot is the first step to writing. It shows you the characters, the setting, the events. It gives you an outline to follow when writer’s block comes (it shall come, be warned). It gets you started, and is the first actual writing in the book-making process.

Once you get your plot, the creative juices flow and soak your pages in moist creativeness. If you’re writing on a computer, watch out, because this will probably electrocute you, and you can’t write a book when you’re dead, normally.

Your plot gives you the settings, the characters, the events, the guidance, the motivation, and much more. Think it’s important? You bet your Bloopinsingtonburg coins.

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