The plot of a story is its structured sequence of events, each flowing logically and inevitably from one to the next, driven by character choices and external events. Like the spine of a creature, it supports and shapes the body of the narrative.
1. What is a Plot?
At its most basic, a plot answers the question: “What happens next?” It’s the sequence of actions, decisions, and consequences that drive your narrative from beginning to end.
2. Elements of a Good Plot:
- Inciting Incident: This event kickstarts the story. It’s the moment that propels the protagonist out of their status quo.Example: In “The Hobbit,” Bilbo Baggins encounters Gandalf and the dwarves, setting him on a journey he never expected.
- Rising Action: A series of conflicts and challenges that build tension and stakes.Example: In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss faces a series of challenges in the arena, each increasing in intensity.
- Climax: The moment of highest tension. It’s the pivotal event that determines the outcome of the story.Example: In “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort in the final chapters is the climactic moment.
- Falling Action: Events that happen as a result of the climax and start tying up the story’s loose ends.
- Resolution: The conclusion of the story, where remaining questions are answered and conflicts are resolved.
These are secondary storylines that complement the main plot, often providing depth to characters or the world.
Example: In “Pride and Prejudice,” while the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy is the main plot, the relationships of Elizabeth’s sisters also form important subplots.
4. Plot Structures:
There are various recognized structures, such as:
- Three-Act Structure: Setup, Confrontation, Resolution.
- Hero’s Journey: A 12-step journey often found in myths and epic tales.
- Seven-Point Story Structure: A more detailed breakdown of key turning points.
Here’s a big list of plot structure outlines and story templates.
5. The Role of Conflict:
A story without conflict is like a car without fuel. Conflict, whether internal (character vs. self) or external (character vs. character, society, nature), propels the plot forward.
6. Themes and Motifs:
While not directly tied to plot, recurring themes and motifs can enhance and provide deeper meaning to the story. For example, the recurring motif of the mockingjay in “The Hunger Games” serves as a symbol of rebellion.
Crafting a compelling plot requires intention, understanding, and often lots of revisions. By grasping the structure and elements of a well-told story, you’re well on your way to captivating your audience from the first page to the last.
PS – here’s an article on how to keep your story plotting unpredictable.