Mixing the Plot

     

    Making the plot and outlines for your story is like making a salad. First, you need to choose your lettuce - decide what the story is mainly going to be about and what will happen overall.

      Second, you start figuring out which toppings would be good in your salad - starting to narrow down the plot and the conflict.

      Third, you begin to put in some good toppings and mix it all up. You're so close to getting this plot done, so don't stop now! 

     And finally, you add the finishing touches to your story by pouring on the dressing and having a taste test. If it tastes good, you might add a few more toppings here and there, but overall you're done. If it doesn't taste quite right, it's back to the kitchen to figure out what you might not have done right.

     Every plot you make is different, but there's one thing you should do for pretty much every plot you create. And that thing is: unless it's the kind of writing style that fits you, do not do not do not DO NOT DO NOT try to make up your plot as you go along. You need to at least have a basic idea of what's going to happen, and there are plenty of ways to do that.

     The first way is the infamous PLOT OUTLINE, which is basically this:

INTRODUCTION

Let your readers know who the heck your characters are, and describe their lives.

THE PROBLEM

Get your characters into the problem. Then introduce the problem.

THE OTHER PROBLEM

Make the problem worse. Show your characters trying to solve it. Preferably have them fail.

CLIMAX

The problem has gotten so bad it's not even funny. This scene will be set right as your characters try to solve it.

RESOLUTION

Your characters have solved the problem and are happy. Good job, you finished the story.

     The plot outline is one of the least popular options. It's good enough when you're starting out, but after a bit of writing, it starts to get pretty dull. I suggest trying another strategy if you've reached the point where a plot outline doesn't work anymore.

     There is another version of the plot outline. It's designed for tragedies. Basically, instead of a climax, you have a fake resolution. Just as your character thinks everything is fine, things get worse and worse all of a sudden, and this time your character can't solve the problem. So the ending is sad and depressing - hence the name.

     The next method is heavily based on your character's main desire. First, you need to decide what the one thing your character wants the most is. By the end of the story, your character should either have what they wanted or realized what they wanted wasn't what they needed.

     Of course, you need to make it hard for your character to obtain what they want - after all, if your character is named Rachel, wants to become the class president, and immediately becomes the class president, then there's no real story. You have to throw in some challenges for her.

     How might you make it hard? Well, what if her dad doesn't want her to run for president because he thinks it'll be too much responsibility? Or maybe her best friend is also running for class president, and they have to compete against each other. Maybe as you write along, you'll discover maybe what Rachel needs is not to become the class president, but to realize the true meaning of friendship, or to form a stronger relationship with her dad.

     You can also include some subplots that are loosely tied in with the main story. For example, what if her mother (who makes money from a simple dog-walking service) is worried that the professional dog-caring service opening in their town is going to put her out of business? If you want some extra pressure, you could have the spoiled nephew of the dog-care service owner be Rachel's main competitor for class president.

     Look at this - we have a bunch of pretty good options for Rachel's story, and we just made her up. This is one of my favorite methods - it's easy, produces good plots, and it's fun!

     Of course, you may be the kind of person who likes to make up plots as you go along. I wouldn't suggest it, but if you want to do it, go ahead - after all, a big part of this site is trying to find what works for you. In case you do decide to try that, I have a single tip for you.

      It can be tough to make things up on the spot. Sometimes you'll just get stuck and you won't be able to decide on what happens next. If you do, ask yourself one simple question: In this moment of my story, what does the character I'm focusing on want? They could want to do anything, from saving their brother from sharks to simply reading the note their best friend just passed them. Let them attempt to do it and take your story from there.

     There is one last method for creating plots. It can be challenging, so you'll probably have to practice using it a lot.

     The first step is to decide what your story will be like overall. Will it be set in the past, the future, or the present? Will it include magic, aliens, robots, or anything like that? Next, narrow things down a bit. What will happen when the story begins, and what will happen at the end? Start going into detail about each particular event. Once you have the general plot shaped out, create your characters (except tweak your characters a little bit to fit the plot you've set up) and write the story.

     I say the last method is challenging and that you'll have to practice using it a lot, but that's really true of almost every method for developing a plot. A plot is the main point of the story, and dealing with all those twists and turns can be a real challenge. The more you make them, the better you'll get at making them. If you ever get discouraged while you're writing your stories, don't get too angry with yourself. If you keep writing, you'll eventually be able to create amazing plots that always make your readers want to read more.