Writing a Story: Plot Summary
With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, it seems like a great time to continue with the Writing a Story series I started last month. If you’re looking for a refresh, check out the last post on Creating a Character here.
Writing a novel comes easy for some folk, not so easy for others. I consider myself one of those people who falls in between. Typically, a scene comes to me from out of no where… a dream, every day life, etc. From there, I start formulating an idea. For the most part, the idea is incomplete and needs time to cultivate in my mind… kind of like yeast.
One way to help the idea grow into something more substantial is taking the time to plot a summary. Take your characters on a mini-journey. Since it’s a summary, it doesn’t have to be in detail. Save the detailed scenes for the real writing process.
Dividing your summary into parts
Start by dividing your summary into parts. Think of it as a 3-part play with a beginning, middle, and end. This will help ensure your storyline is balanced, while avoiding a saggy middle.
Part One – The Set Up
The Introduction. Consider how you want to bring your main character(s) into the story. What are the relationships between the characters? How do they interact with one another? This is a time to show your characters’ flaws and strengths. Let the readers really get to know your characters and start to feel for their situations.
Attention Getter. How do you plan to capture the audiences attention in the first few pages. Keep in mind, many readers decide if they’ll read your book after reading just the first few hundred words. You don’t have a lot of time to pull the reader in. So the way you decide to start your story is extremely important. Again, your summary isn’t about details, but creating the over all feel.
The Problem. Part one is also the place to introduce the major problem into the story. You might also consider subplots, but for the summary, try to focus on presenting the main problem. Exactly what is you character facing? What is keeping your character from finding happiness or completing their goal.
Part Two – Avoiding the Saggy Middle
The Adventure. Once your character(s) have a problem and a bit of direction, it’s time to set them on their path. This is where you develop a general plan for your characters. This is where they do the bulk of solving their problems or reaching their goals. This section should be filled with ups and downs, successes and failures.
Character Growth. This is also the place where your character(s) experience changes. They start to learn about themselves through the adventures they experience. Determine what your character(s) should take away from the experience. And don’t forget, the villain is the hero/heroine of his/her own story. So don’t forget to show villain’s character changes also. Also keep in mind, the hero can fall into evil just as villains can find goodness.
Part Three – The Conclusion
The Resolution. Your characters have come to the end of their adventures and now to set things straight. Misunderstandings are resolved, characters overcome major challenges (which may or may not lead to happy ending), and the solution to achieving their ultimate goal is revealed.
The Final Showdown. This is the moment your characters have some kind of victory. If you’ve read any of my works, you probably know I don’t always write perfect endings. However, the heroes of the story NEED to win on some level… and that something should be big and worthy. That win might even be the realization that letting go is the best outcome. Or as many Westerners like… lead to a happily ever after or happy for now ending.
Wrap up. And then we have the wrap up. This is the moment you get to send your character off into the sunset.
It’s Not Concrete
One of the things I love about plotting is it really gets me thinking about the story. And though the plot is written, it doesn’t have to be followed exactly… or even at all. Subplots form and characters get a mind of their own. What’s important (at least in my creative mind) is plotting gives a little direction and can really help a writer get started.