Plot in Early Planning

Now that we’ve talked about setting and character, it’s time to talk about plot. Plot is the conflict and its resolution, the story itself, which is built upon the building blocks of setting and character. Today we’re going to talk about the things you should establish before you write your outline.

Today you’re going to create a fact sheet in relation to your story. The first thing you need to put on this sheet of paper is the location in which your story takes place. Next, write down each of the characters’ names and their roles in the story. Leave some room here-you’re probably going to run into more characters along the way, and it makes it easier if this list stays up to date. Finally,write down the main conflict and the point-what you’re trying to accomplish with this story.

Now that you’ve established the basics, it’s time to start asking questions such as:

What other conflicts might arise? These are the minor conflicts that make up the story. Things like characters not getting along, or characters getting lost, or encountering an obstacle not directly related to the main story. This is where most of your subplots will come from.

What internal struggles do each of the characters face? These are the struggles that make up the real emotional tension in books. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be half so amazing if not for Frodo’s internal struggle regarding the ring.

What events absolutely have to happen to reach the conclusion? These are the things that will for sure be included in your outline, the things which are unmovable in your story (at least how you see it now).

Which parts of characters’ pasts are most important? This is the backstory which again, you need to include. These are the things you want the readers to know to help them understand your characters and your story. The things that are crucial to knowing them, like if they used to have a wife who’s dead now, or if both their parents were killed by goblins when they were young. Remember there’s not too much of this that you want to include, but you want to have at least one important item in every character’s past-including the villain’s-to help the reader understand them.

What are each characters’ motivations? This is what each character wants, why they act the way they do in the story. These are important to keep in mind and to weave in during the story.

There are lots of other questions that you can ask, but these are the ones that I find most important. These should give you all the material you need to write your outline and begin your novel.

Previous posts in this series:
5 Questions to Ask Yourself when Starting a Project
Setting in Early Planning
Characterization in Early Planning

One thought on “Plot in Early Planning

  • redparrot


    : ) This Screnzy I discovered the word “pantser” and that I am one. : ) Having said that, while I don’t quite write down the plot as you describe, I have in my head the over-arching one that should take the story from A to B. Once I write out a conflict or a plot or whatone, I am fairly obsessive about recording it for future use.

    My only exception is in character outlines wherein I outline things that would lead to conflict (loves/hates/world views) and answer the question “what does this character want?”

    This “what does the character want” is particularly useful for plays since all the action is essentially driven from creating a situation to NOT let the character get what he/she wants. Last year’s first play was all about a man who wanted a chicken for dinner and being thwarted in that quest. : )

    In other news, here is a blog post using the childhood prompt. It’s an excerpt from 2010 Nano effort with minor edits. : )

    At some point, I need to get back to Elgin. He has been most neglected …


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