We have reached the third day of our Official Week of Writing and Musing on Writing. Yesterday, we discussed character. Today we will discuss plot. But before we go any further, I think it’s time for another writing exercise. This one will build character – both yours as a writer and your character’s character.

Think of your main character. If you have more than one, think of the one the point of view is closest to. If you aren’t working on anything in particular right now, invent a character. Now, ask that character , “Before your book began, what was the most fun you have ever had in your entire life. What were you doing? Where were you? Etc. Wait for your character to respond, and then in first person, write down their (minimum of three paragraphs, at least a page is better) response. This works for picture book characters as well. Did your characters answer surprise you? Did you learn anything new? There are many variations to this exercise. Let me know if you want more.

Now, to plot.

A story’s plot is literally the action that moves the story. It is centered around a major conflict of some kind. It can be as simple as: The boys in school make fun of my tapping. How can I make them stop? (The conflict in Jessica McBean, Tap Dance Queen Blooming Tree Press 2006) or as complex as: An evil wizard is trying to kill me and takeover the world, and at the same time a teacher and his favorite evil student that both hate me are trying to make my school life a living Hell. (The conflicts in all the Harry Potter books.) Regardless of how simple or complex you make plot’s conflict, you must have one.

All stories must have some kind of main conflict otherwise it’s not a story. They can also have minor conflicts or subplots. Snape and Draco in the Harry Potter books are subplots. But for now, let’s just concentrate on the main conflict. Subplots work exactly like a main plot except on a smaller scale. All plots can be divided into the following parts:

  • Introduction of Conflict
  • Dealing with Conflict
  • Resolving Conflict

See how important conflict is? In school you probably learned it as:

  • Introduction
  • Conflict
  • Resolution
  • Denouement

At least, that’s what we were taught in the simplistic, Structuralistic literary analysis you enjoy in English class. Still, even if you don’t sit there and go – “Is this man vs. man? No, man vs. nature? No, no, it’s man vs. washing machine.” – you have to have some sort of conflict. Conflict, although unpleasant, is what makes life interesting. Think back to all your favorite self-deprecating stories that you can laugh about now, but completely sucked when they were occurring. Those had conflict.

In my earlier over view post, I mentioned the Hero’s Journey as an excellent way to map out your plot. I will go into greater detail tomorrow. I have to leave something for BEOWWMW Day #5.

Oh, and I worked on my thesis this morning. I’m up another 2500 words.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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