Tuesday, 7 August 2012

How I Write - Plots

Hello! I decided to do a How I Write today, seeing as I haven't done one in a while, but first, I would like to give you all a book recommendation -  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Now, it is not very often I read a book in less than three days, but I swear - that book is genius. It's funny, it's smart, it's got amazing characters and the very concept is brimming with awesomeness. I suggest you go out and buy it. Now.

Ok, now that that's over and done with, here's the actual blog post. And, roll the tape...

Plot. We all know what it is, but I'll put the definition here anyway -  :the plan, scheme, or main story of literary or dramatic work, such as a play, novel, or short story.

A plot is essential to all stories, novels, plays, and anything else that could be classified, in one way or another as a story. The plot is a backbone, the spine of the story. Without the spine, the arms and legs don't work and the story goes nowhere. It just flops on the ground, dead. So, to make a story work, you need a plot. I won't insult your intelligence any more on this point - I'm pretty sure most of you know that already.

In an Englsih teachers mind, a plot should look like an arc, with a beginning, middle and end. If you want to elaborate it should have a beginning (introducing characters, themes, etc), and middle (raising of tension), a climax, and then a resolution. So, a story in graph form should look like this:

So an example (I like examples) - Cinderella. 
Exposition = Boring life, treated badly by sisters.
Rising action = Meets random fairy person, gets transformed into a super model, goes to ball, meets Prince, loses slipper, goes back to awful life.
Climax = Prince finds her and makes her try on slipper.
Falling action = It fits and the Prince proposes. (+one chorus of 'Awwwwwwww')
Resolution = They get married and leave the ugly sisters to stew.

Tada, easy peasy, right?


I said at the start that this is an English teachers plot diagram. This is the extremely simple, 5 year old plot diagram. If you want to be a writer, make things more complicated. The plot may be a spine, but its very flexible. Use that! Change it up a bit. Leave out the tension building, go straight to the climax! Ignore the resolution - use a cliffhanger! 

In my story The Sad, Sad, Case of Jeremy Moore, there was a plot - but no real climax. However, Over and Out followed the plot graph to a tee. So, just make it up. Plots don't have to be straightforward. You have secondary plots, little plots inside big plots, cliffhangers, double climaxes...

So while English teacher's think a story should look like a triangle, it actually ends up looking like this:

A plot graph for a film, which is another form of story.

So, that's plots. I could into so much more detail about this, but I won't. All you need to know is that plots are spines, and that so long as you have one that can be laid out on a graph (who cares if it's messy), it's fine, and your story won't die. If it doesn't...well, you'd better call in the surgeons. 


Kirthi said...

Hi Jenni!
Now THAT is a plot diagram, haha :D I tried one of these diagrams things early on, at about your age (wow, I feel old, almost 16 :D) and I spent an entire year just trying to get them to work and nothing happened! I had the entire plot in my head and knew how to work it out on paper, and just writing it down destroyed it all, you know? Anyway, I agree with you about the little plots, because it's those that really give a book depth. That doesn't mean love triangles (god no) just little things like a mother daughter relationship, or something else :D

Nice blog! I'm a new follower :)

p.S. I thought you might enjoy entering my writing competition? It's got fab prizes and I think you'd enjoy it :D

Kirthi said...

Hi Jenni!
Hehe, I can't wait to read your entry! The competition ends on the 9th of September, and then we'll judge for a few weeks and announce later in the same month :D

P.S. "The Problem With Promises" was like, the only title that I could think of a story for, haha :D I didn't realise everyone chose it!