How to Write Your Book: Plot

Thus far I’ve blogged about outlining your book, character development, and character arcs. The fourth element that poet/author Victoria Zackheim and international best selling historical novelist Anne Perry covered in their workshop on book writing is plot. Anne characterized plot(s) as being akin to limbs on a tree that all connect to a strong spine (or the trunk of the tree). In fiction, every limb needs to have that connection.

How do you determine what the plot should be? Before you choose a plot, the author should know what the theme is. From the start, plot is the catalyst for the story. Here are two examples of plots and the themes:

  • We don’t know people like we think we do, or someone is not who they seem
  • A prevailing theme of what is going on in society
  • A theme of social problems (Anne writes extensively about social problems in her books but notes it’s easier to comment on them in historical works vs. those set in current day)
  • In mysteries, there are generally two themes – who killed someone and why they did it

Then, authors need to pay attention to the points of the plot and where they fall. Anne gave an example of dividing a novel this way:

  • The inciting incident – first 25 percent of the book
  • Turning point for the protagonist – occurs about halfway through
  • Climax takes places at around 75 percent
  • Resolution occurs at 100 percent or completion of the novel

Once you’ve determined what the main plot is, authors need to consider other aspects that will ultimately affect the plot that involve characters:

  • How do your characters interact and affect one another? For example, how do characters react when their family members are being interviewed by police?
  • Plot needs to have obstacles the protagonist must overcome or that they don’t.
  • Is there a mirror moment? This is when characters see themselves as part of something bigger or they come to a quiet understanding that they can do something extraordinary.

Anne noted that another advantage of outlining is that an author won’t experience writer’s block because they know what is coming next. In developing a plot, the example of a spine or tree trunk as the central plot with a connection to all the limbs that emerge from the tree was a great visual for me that will certainly be of help in my future writing endeavors. I hope it helps you too!

 

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