Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Five Points in Any Story Plot

image: freedigitalimages.net/renjith krishnan
Even though every good story seems quite different from every other good story, there are many things that good stories have in common. You just have to look a little deeper.

Even the most intricate plot has a few basic elements to it:

1. Status Quo. How things are, or how things were before the story started. At the beginning of a story, the reader learns at least little bit about what is normal for your character. (For example, at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we learn that Harry lives under the stairs, in the Dursleys' house, and that he isn't very happy with his life there.)

2. Inciting Incident. Very early in the story, something will happen that changes your character. Perhaps something beyond his control will happen to him, throwing him out of balance and forcing him to react. Or perhaps he'll make a decision to change his status quo by doing something he's never tried before. (The inciting incident for Harry occurs when Hagrid knocks on the door and announces "You're a wizard, Harry." Harry's life is changed forever by that knowledge.)

3. Actions and Obstacles. The rest of your story will unfold as your character reacts to the inciting incident. He will suddenly have a big problem to solve and he will set out to solve it. (Harry has several goals-to survive the year at Hogwarts, to protect the Sorcerer's Stone, and ultimately to defeat Voldemort.)

But it's not so easy to accomplish these tasks. There are many obstacles that get in the way. (Harry must make some friends to help him, sneak around the castle and avoid getting caught by the teachers, learn magic, defeat a troll, figure out where the Stone is hidden, and much more!)

As your character overcomes these smaller challenges, it prepares him for the bigger challenge that is coming.

4. Climax. After all these trials, your character must face the moment of greatest tension, when he has to overcome the biggest obstacle he's ever faced. (For Harry, it is the final showdown over the Sorcerer's Stone, when Voldemort reveals himself.)

5. Resolution. After your character overcomes the problem at the book's climax, you are nearing the end of your story. The resolution occurs as the character celebrates his victory, mourns what he has lost (if anything) and begins to move forward with his life. (Harry gets on the Hogwarts Express, headed home, happy to have survived the year, and glad to be a part of the wizarding world.)

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