Plot. Even the word sounds kind of scary and intimidating. You, the writer, are responsible for orchestrating every twist and turn of the plot, for making sure everything comes out correctly in the end…even when you may not be sure what the story is about, especially in the beginning.
How is that even possible?
It’s not! :) And that’s good news.
To begin with, let’s take a look at the basics.
First, what is plot? On the simplest level, it’s what happens in a story. But as we all know, it’s not everything that happens in a story. When you talk about plot, you’re referring to significant events that contribute to the development of a character or move the main action forward.
I would also argue plot is something that can only be analyzed, dissected, brought forth by an objective party—a reviewer, a movie critic, etc. However, your primary concern as a writer is the STORY, which is not the same as plot. Don’t worry about plot. From now on, plot is a four-letter word for you.
In every story, you have a guy (or a girl). Something happens to that guy/girl or the guy/girl decides to do something. (Usually something happens and guy/girl decides to do something in response.)
In the end of every story, some action has been accomplished. The case has been solved, the evil overlord has been defeated, the marriage fails.
Accomplished is the important word here in that it indicates our guy/girl has had some role in making it happen. Stories cannot be passive—events just happening to someone. It has to be about his/her response to what is happening.
As they say, “Sh*t happens.” :-) But the interesting part is how the characters deal or don’t deal with it. It’s not just discovering that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. It’s the question of how is Luke going to handle this? How will that change his perception of himself? His future actions?
In the end, our guy/girl is also fundamentally changed (even in a small way) by what he/she has experienced and said and done in response in the pursuit of accomplishing the main task.
So, looking at it this way, story (what we might have once called “plot”) is really just about your characters—what they want, what they’re willing to do to get what they want, and how that process changes them.
And you know your characters, probably even love them (I know I do!), and that’s all you really need, if you know how to use that information effectively.
Join me for more during Plot is a Four-Letter Word and learn how your characters will see you through the darkest, scariest plotting moments. :)
As an award-winning corporate copywriter, Stacey Kade has written about everything from backhoe loaders to breast pumps. But she prefers to make things up instead. From her first childhood scribbles about a magical necklace that would turn people into cats, Stacey has long been fascinated with what happens when the “ordinary” bumps up against “out of this world.” What if aliens landed on Earth? What if the afterlife is really just another dimension? She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Greg, and their three retired racing greyhounds, Joezooka (Joe), Tall Walker (Walker) and SheWearsThePants (Pansy). When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll likely find her parked in front of the television with her Roswell DVDs, staring rapturously at Jason Behr.
Plot is a Four-Letter Word, presented by Stacey Kade, runs from November 1 through December 6, 2010