Saturday, April 18, 2015

A to Z Challenge: P is for Plot Points

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

P is for Plot Points

There are plenty of different systems for making sure you're hitting all the important plot points. This one is mine. I've presented these points at several conferences and writing workshops, now, and always get a good reception for them.

9 Plot Points for a Well-Fleshed-Out Story

(We'll use The Fellowship of the Ring for examples.)

1. The World Before - As in, the world before your story, before your conflict is introduced.

Example: Frodo leads a peaceful life in the Shire.

2. Intro of Conflict -The main character's (MC's) world changes in some way. Great time to introduce villain, problem the world produces, or over-arching conflict.

Example: Frodo learns what the One Ring is and what it might mean for his (and the Shire's) future.

3. Escalation #1/Call to Adventure - Things get worse. Put pressure on your characters. Great place for heart-pounding action. Things happen that are beyond the MC's control. They should be reacting, mostly out of desperation.

Example: The Black Riders show up and Frodo flees the Shire with the ring.

4. Turning Point - Characters go from reaction to action. Up until now, things were acting upon them. Now, they take their fate in their hands by deciding to DO something. (This usually follows them getting a lot more information that they didn't have before.)

Example: Frodo volunteers to take the One Ring to Mordor after the Council of Elrond.

5. Escalation #2 - Things get MUCH worse for your MC. Often this takes the form of a friend or mentor dying, the bad guys winning a great victory, some key part of the plan is lost, or some vital piece of information they didn't have comes back to bite them in the butt. Anything that puts their success in doubt and/or causes despair will work.

Example: Gandalf is killed by the balrog.

6. Climax - A confrontation between your MC and their major conflict and/or villain. (If it's a series, the over-arching villain may not appear until the end, but there's still a major conflict for the character in this installment.

Example: Frodo confronts the idea of whether or not he's up to (and whether it's worth it to him) to take the ring to Mordor.

7. Uber-Despair - This is your character's lowest point. They're sure they'll fail. They can't do what they've been trying to do the entire story. There is no hope.

Example: Frodo believes he'll have to go to Mordor alone and doesn't believe he's up to bearing the burden alone.

8. Ah Hah Moment - The solution to your character's dilemna is realized. Most often it is something they already possess, have within them, or have already done, but didn't realize it.

Example: Frodo realizes he has it within himself to destroy the ring. Also, because of past treatment, Sam's loyalty to Frodo is already in place and he comes to Mordor with his master.

9. Resolution - Resolve major conflicts in this installment (if not in overall series) and come to a good summing up place for the plot. If there will be further books in the series, do something that will propel readers toward the next novel.

Example: Frodo and Sam head into Mordor

Do you think these 9 Plot Points cover everything?


  1. Screen writers use a similar outline called a "beat sheet" that can be easily converted to novel writing. It's very handy for building the stereotypical plot, but it's just that - stereotypical. It's why every major Hollywood movie has the exact same plot, as do many genre novels. It's helpful for an outline, but it really limits the possibility of something different.

    1. I've never seen it as limiting. In my opinion, if a story doesn't hit each of these beats in some form, it feels unfinished and like it's missing something. Of course you don't have to hit the beats, but the ones that do are the ones that feel the most complete, the most satisfying, and stick with you the longest, in my opinion.

  2. I think that covers just about everything. Very handy information.

  3. They cover the same point the Fifteen Beats from Save the Cat, only in half the time.

    1. Yeah, there are lots of iterations of these kinds of plot points--the simplest of which is the 3 act structure--but they all cover the same basic information. Thanks Alex! :D

  4. Whew! Good thing I have a great editor!

    1. Yup! Good editors are indispensable! :D Thanks Stephen!