Finding Your Plot

When writing a story, one of the first things (after, maybe, character or setting) that you will consider is writing the plot of your story. I will say this once: YOUR PLOT IS NOT YOUR STORY. A professor of mine told it this way: the story is the list of the events; the plot is the why.

A common example:

Story: The king died and then the queen died after.

Plot: The king died and then the queen died after due to a broken heart.

Spot the difference? Every piece of your story puzzle has to connect with reason in order to make a plot.

So how do you discover your plot?

Think about what you want to say. What do you want to say? Do you want to talk about how human beings are all aliens? Do you want to talk about how love happens in all the strangest places? Or maybe you just want to talk about something you fear: like spiders or heights or the corruption of all man-kind by super technological advances? Write it down. That’s your purpose.

From here on out, I’m going to use the human beings are all aliens example from before to write out a plot. If anybody should decide to steal said plot, you saw it here first.

So you have your purpose: human beings are all aliens. But what do you do with it?

Every plot needs a purpose, some driving force that pushes the reader through your story. The trick is to stretch out the idea into a 50,000 word+ novel that people will actually want to read.

You want to tell the world that human beings are all aliens. From there you need a less broad idea, something that puts this into perspective.

For instance: A guy lives his life only to discover that there is a small planet of beings living underneath his bed. (It’s a very small planet).

It’s pretty basic, really. The guy is an alien to the small planet of aliens. There, done.

However, you need to stretch this out to make a story, an actual interesting story that people will want. If you just want the basic story that I wrote up there, you could probably make an interesting short story but we’re talking novels here. Novels.

You can’t talk about him finding a planet under his bed for two hundred pages and not have anything else included.

You need to flesh it out. 

What kind of guy is he? Is he a cool guy with a super interesting social life? Or is he super dull and the only reason he was even under his bed in the first place was to look for his cat?

Where does he live? Does he live in a penthouse in the city? Or does he live in a little house in a small town?

What does he do for work? Is he a rock-star? Is he a teacher? Is he unemployed?

Is he in a relationship? Is he married? Does he maybe have a crush on someone?

For my plot, I’ll say this: Dave, his name is Dave now, is an unemployed loser who crushes on the cashier at the local supermarket. He lives with his parents after a brief period away (maybe having been successful at some point) and they have a cat.

There, we have Dave’s life, sort of.

You need him to do something. 

Characters always need to do something. This can be anything: like having your character search for the holy grail.

Dave is trying to get his parent’s cat, hiding underneath the bed, to love him.

That right there. That’s your inciting incident. The moment where everything changes. The moment that propels your character deeper into his own story.

It is the moment that Dave finds it: a planet underneath his bed. Sure, he screams and all that but the important part is the planet under his bed.

From there, you stretch it out. Say, maybe Dave keeps this planet a secret and even refuses to believe that he sees it at first. And then his cashier crush notices him acting strange and gets suspicious.

The start of Dave’s story would go like this:

  • Dave lives his usual dull life, crushes on the cashier, and lives with his parents.
  • One day, the cat is being more difficult to love than usual.
  • He looks for the cat under the bed and there is a small orb with singing coming out of it a la Horton Hears a Who.

And just like that, you have points of a plot that can only go forward from there. There’s so much more, like finding your conflict, for instance, but that’s for a later blog post. 

I’ve got a vast amount of knowledge on this topic. Let me know what you want me to write about next! Comment below!


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