In scanning past workshops I’ve done for the Society of Children Book Writers to come up with a blurb for the presentation I’ve been invited to share with the Los Angeles Chapter, I ran across 15 Tips to Create a Compelling Plot for Your Story (from back in the days of Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple – now known as Writing Blockbuster Plots) I thought you might find helpful.
15 Plot Tips
Plot is a series of dramatic action scenes moving a character(s) toward emotional maturity and/or transformation and meaning.
The following 15 plot tips point to different layers of plot and how best to use them to create exciting and emotionally satisfying stories for children and young adults (and adults). Push aside the words of your story to see the overall plot in its entirety.
1) Blend at least 3 plot threads in every scene: action, emotion, theme
2) Leave off telling the protagonist’s backstory in summary, show what she does and is unable to do today because of her backstory and/or backstory wound
3) Opt for external dramatic action in every scene as your protagonist moves toward achieving a concrete short term goal she believes will advance to her long term goal
4) Cultivate the protagonist’s inner life through external clues
5) Keep in mind how the energy rises and falls in your story according to the Universal Story
6) Brainstorm story ideas with others. For the rough draft, keep your writing to yourself
7) Understand the needs of your specific genre
8) Spark ideas first for the 4 Energetic Markers — No Turning Back (1/4 mark of your story), Recommitment (1/2 way mark), Crisis or Dark Night (3/4 mark or thereabouts), and Triumph (just before the Resolution at the end). Fill in all other scenes later
9) Test yourself for what your story is really trying to say to determine the thematic significance
10) Establish scenes by cause and effect
11) Romance is another plot in nearly every story (romance loosely defined as love as in parental relationships, friendships, partnership, etc.)
12) Plot the territory of the antagonists in the Middle as an exotic world to the protagonist
13) Love the first ideas that come to you in the rough draft. In subsequent drafts, replace your initial ideas with ones that provide more depth and are more closely tied thematically to the whole of the story and connected by cause and effect
14) Optimize your protagonist’s character emotional development as you plot and write by keeping an eye out for the gift she brings at the end
15) Take your story all the way from beginning to end before going back and rewriting the beginning again
Oh, and one last one:
Stop thinking and write!