Thursday, March 27, 2014

Critical Plot Elements - The Plot "W" Round-Up

The previous posts in this series can be found here.

We've finished identifying all the critical plot points! Now it's time to take a step back and make sure we know how to put them together.

The truth is, the wordcount between each plot point will expand and contract for different writers and genres. They'll also overlap. What I'll show you today is the structure I've found works best for me.  Maybe it will work for you too, but hopefully you'll at least get an idea of how to figure out your own.

If you google "Plot structure" you'll get all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes and sizes. Some are very straightforward: 

Others will look like this.

Still others might feel like this:

But in the end, most agree on two things: Good plotting requires peaks and troughs.

Personally, my Plot W usually looks something like this:

If you view the length of the arrows as wordcount, events in the first act are fairly swift. The protagonist's story  moves quickly through set-up and she experiences a dramatic down-turn in her circumstances early on.

The second act tends to be the longest, with the most drawn-out trough. The Protagonist learns a lot during this period and tension is developed through a series of smaller wins and losses.

Then, towards the end, the protagonist's journey becomes dire. At that point it's a swift and steep climb to the end.

In terms of the plotting elements we've discussed in this series, they fall roughly in this design:

Note that the very first element, (B1 - World Building) occurs simultaneously with the other beginning elements.

In practice, many of these plotting elements will overlap - particularly those at the very beginning.  And I've left the indicator for The Black Moment off because that changes depending on the book. But I'm hopeful this will give you some idea how I see these elements working together, and how I've come to structure them in relation to each other.

So, that's it folks! We now have a solid, structured plot development plan to help you move from beginning to middle to end.

If you have any questions, jump into the comments and let me know. Otherwise, keep an eye out for some later posts in this series where we'll discuss how these plot points look in different genres.

Your Turn: Do you tend towards a certain 'shape' for your plot, or is each book different?


  1. I love this.
    My plots tend to look like a staircase - character wants 'this' so tries 'that' and comes up against a wall. Scales wall, tries new thing, comes up agains new wall etc.
    For me, it's a visual reminder that at all times the story needs to move forward towards a goal. Onwards and upwards.

    I love your posts.

  2. I'm in awe... I have no idea how my plots go, except that I think each one if different. I know last year for NaNo, I struggled a bit at the end when I realized it had an.. Anticlimactic ending. At first I was worried, because I always picture stories ending with a WOW. And this one didn't.

  3. Wow I'm so impressed with your ability to display your story diagramatically (sp?) like that. I'm not sure I could do that with my WiP. I think my next book will be very different to this one so I'd guess my 'shape' will be different. Time will tell! :-)

  4. pretty nice blog, following :)