THE PLACE TO BE FOR ALL YOUR STORY WRITING NEEDS
So, you have an idea. You might even have characters, a scene and an inciting incident. But what’s the story? Where would your book sit on the immortal shelf? Crime, drama, romance, sci-fi, contemporary, literary, fantasy (I’m omitting lots but you get the general idea). Most of all, how do you decide?
Plain-speaking time: this is where your plot comes in.
Imagine if Percy went to Camp Half-Blood, but there were no monsters or prophecies.
What if Romeo and Juliet met each other but their families were just mildly disinterested in each other?
What if (I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry) they just flew the eagles to Mordor? (I have a theory on that, I promise – the eagles would have been seen by Sauron’s great eye and eaten by Nazgul).
The plot, very simply put, is what happens. We know this, but it doesn’t stop plot becoming one of the most irritating parts of writing a story.
So, what happens in your story?
Let’s look at the plot arc in a slightly mad way that works for me. I simply imagine the plot of a story I’m drafting as a vocal rollercoaster.
Protagonist starts his first day at fairy training camp and QUICKLY GETS THROWN INTO AN ASSIGNMENT. He meets his charge and quickly finds out HIS CHARGE IS BEING FORCED TO GET MARRIED. HIS CHARGE RUNS AWAY and our protagonist has to follow.
So, as an example, there are the first 3 chapters of one of my stories. What the vocal rollercoaster (so called because I basically do the voice in my head as I’m reading/writing the words, sometimes out loud) shows is what happens.
We find out that the protagonist is on his first day of fairy camp, but that is setting the scene. What happens is that he is thrown into his first assignment.
He meets his charge but the inciting incident is that his charge is being forced to get married and, as fairy boy, the protagonist has to help him.
Then, his charge runs away and he has to follow.
Let’s assume we take out the bits in bold:
Protagonist starts his first day at fairy training camp. He meets his charge and has to follow him.
So, yeah, the above isn’t the most inspiring piece of fiction BUT reverse that:
Protagonist gets thrown into his first assignment and finds out his charge is being forced to get married, so his charge runs away.
Immediately you’ve got an impromptu assignment, a potential forced marriage and a runaway. These are the intriguing plot points – the exciting bits that make the reader go ‘oooh’ (hopefully, it’s not an exact Science. On which note, if you are looking for exact Sciences I can direct you to my other half’s services and he’ll be happy to teach you the isosceles of a rhombus, or something.)
So why not try the vocal rollercoaster on your story?
Moving on, there are also several theories on the way to structure a story.
From the 5 part strategy (research) to the 3 part (research) and also (Lindsay’s mountain thingy if she agrees), these are all valid. That does not mean, however, that they will automatically be right for your story.
The only advice I can give to you here (without stealing lots of excerpts from other people’s methods and ideas) is to read widely. Very rarely do people write a story without a structure and get it spot on. There will always be a better path for the plot to take, a more exciting incident, a stronger hook.
I can’t give you advice, but I can refer you to the professionals:
X – quick review
Y – quick review
Z – quick review
The most important part of your plot is that it moves the story along. Once, in my more tender youth, I wrote a story about horses and at least two chapter-length scenes were based around shopping in the saddlers and talking about boys.
Now, what is wrong with that, you may ask?
Short answer: Nothing
Long answer: Nothing to do with the scenes themselves, but they followed other scenes which needed resolution. Nobody wants to read through a group chat about stirrup lengths and discos for two chapters when they’re desperate to see if the sick horse survives.
How you structure your plot is just as important as what you put in it, which brings us back to:
Rule Number 4: ALWAYS SAVE AND BACK UP YOUR WORK.
*ahem* I mean, the vocal rollercoaster. If you find you have a run of sentences where you’re not RAISING YOUR INTERNAL (or external, we’re not judging) VOICE then ask yourself if the scenes are lagging.
Is there excitement? Is there action happening? If you were the reader, would you like to see a car chase? A unicorn chase? Or are there too many whams and bams that you don’t get time for the thank you?
DO NOT FRET: this can be worked on!
There’s a reason we tend to refer to our stories as WIPs (Work in Progresses – Progressi?)
Our stories are always changing as we work on them.