How to Write the Plot to a Story or Novel

At the risk of seeming completely simplistic, I’m posting a schematic for making a plot. I find this about as useful as knowing that a sentence has a subject / verb / complement. It’s helpful, but plenty of writers do not know a subject from a complement. But knowing can help write sentences as far as that kind of thing goes. I have a couple of these proscriptive things that I’m going to post over the next couple of weeks.

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. — Kurt Vonnegut

Consider how you might shape a plot for your story.

Write out a short summary of the story using the figures below. This will spell out why the characters in your story are performing the actions they are performing. In a narrative this provides the essential reason for dramatic scenes and clarifies each climactic point of conflict.

1. Conflict Worksheet
Protagonist: Character name. (The hero of your story.)

Antagonist: Character name (The villain of your story. You can use a character or elemental force, but an elemental force such as nature or evil is a less specific {and therefore less vivid} than a person.)

What does the protagonist want?: (This desire must be such that the protagonist will be better off or worse off after the events of the story; it cannot be a wash.)

What dos the antagonist want?: (The antagonist must want something that is mutually exclusive of the protagonist’s desire.)

The essential structure of the story then is a playing out of options. The protagonist seeks her goal and tries out options, each option fails or succeeds at moving her closer to her objective.

2. Conflict Statement.

Write a paragraph (300 words or less) using the lines you’ve just written.

[PDF Version]

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