12 Baby Steps to a Complete Story: Plot

A Pen In Each Hand

So you have an idea, but you don’t know where to start… and the end seems so far away it might as well be on Pluto. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Follow the 12 Baby-Steps to a Complete Story and you’ll be on your way. Each month, we’ll post a new exercise. Do each month’s exercise and by the end of the year, you’ll have a polished story (or personal essay, if you prefer non-fiction) ready to submit!

The time-line here is designed for a short piece of writing, not a book, but if you’d like to do it with a novel idea, you’re welcome to. If you’d just like to do the exercises as practice, and use different pieces for each exercise, that’s fine too. Adapt the exercises any way you like. There are no rules, just ideas.

Background Image: Chad Norman (CC-by-nc-sa)

February: Plot
Exercise #2

Aristotle's InclineOutline your plot. Make a list of 15-20 ideas for scenes if you’re working on a novel, 5-6 if you’re writing a short story. Flesh out your list by noting important details about setting, dialogue, character, etc. for each scene. Plot your key scenes on Aristotle’s Incline. For a short story, most, if not all, of your scenes will be key scenes.

  • opening scene = problem situation
  • plot point 1 = 1st complication
  • mid point = 2nd complication
  • plot point 2 = 3rd complication
  • catharsis = crisis
  • wrap-up = resolution

Once you have the scenes laid out, write ½ – 1 page summarizing what happens in your story. Post and ask for feedback on it. Do readers find your plot plausible? Interesting? Does it make sense to them? Make changes / additions incorporating the suggestions you’re given.

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