EDDIE JONES is Acquisition Editor for the book division of Christian Devotions Ministries. (www.christiandevotionsbooks.com). He has authored four non-fiction books, one young adult novel (The Curse of Captain LaFoote, www.captainlafoote.com due out this fall), an adult romantic suspense and over a hundred articles that have appeared in over 20 different publications. He is co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries and a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers Conference. He also provides Writing Coaching Services for both new and established writers. With Eddie's help, you can complete an 80,000-word manuscript within six months. "You can make it as a writer with the right coach." - Eddie Jones www.writerscoach.us firstname.lastname@example.org
Plotting, Not Plodding
A Universal Element Across All Genres
We remember characters, but we pitch plot.
Imagine a story without problems: The journey begins; the journey ends. Nice scenery, a few postcard moments, and one big yawn. Without trouble, conflict, and a crisis, there’s no story and nothing to recall. How can you laugh about the bad times later if there aren’t any? Struggle is the substance of life, and a story filled with character angst and torment pulls us in.
In our daily lives we go to great lengths to avoid conflict, but as writers, we love characters at odds with one another.
Consider the popularity of today’s reality TV shows. They’re almost entirely based on one thing: conflict. Producers search for individuals who are in conflict with one another and throw them into competitive situations where jealousy and betrayal thrive.
Plot, and thus a great story, is a series of cleverly arranged events whose purpose is to evoke an emotional response from the reader. Your goal as writer is to touch the soul of the reader by delivering moments of joy, hope, sorrow, laughter, fear, and anger.
It’s the same with your story: You can create wonderful characters, but if they’re talking about the weather or what they ate for breakfast, your readers will be asleep before they reach the bottom of first page. Conflict is energy, and energy fuels your plot.
The Great Disturbance
What terrible or wonderful event enters the life of your lead and disrupts her life? How is the disturbance the best and worst thing that could happen to her? What does your heroine need to learn? This is your reader’s lesson and the theme of your story.
Your story may follow a path
similar to this:
Good News! Thirteen Is Your Lucky Number
The basic structure of plot is so universal that all thirteen plot points are found in the story of the Prodigal Son. (Just under 500 words!) We accept the three-act structure because it echoes the structure of our days: We rise, we work, and we return in the evening to rest.
Act One: Familiar
Surroundings Falling Apart
Act Two: Problems,
People, and Growth
Give your lead a new hope
Example of Plot in Action
1. Introduce the lead: The youngest son of a wealthy man feels oppressed by his overbearing older brother.
2. Introduce your lead’s motivation: Unhappy at home, the boy decides to leave. (Note: He need not act but only make the decision to act.)
3. Begin the quest: The young son goes to his dad and asks for his share of the inheritance.
4. Change your lead’s direction: The boy sets out and settles in Las Vegas. (As the curtain comes down, you see him walking into the sunset.)
5. Challenge your lead with problems: The boy runs with a fast crowd and soon loses all his money to gambling, women, drugs, and drink.
6. Change your lead’s status: Out of money and on the street, the wealthy boy is now broke, friendless, and homeless.
7. Challenge the lead with tougher problems: Destitute, lacking skills and street smarts, the young man applies for any job he can but faces rejection each time. (If this sounds like your life as a writer, keep reading!)
8. Lead suffers maximum angst: The boy settles for the lowest job in the city—scrubbing toilets in the MGM casino.
9. Offer your lead a transition: Having hit bottom, the young man decides to go home. Maybe he can get a job working in his dad’s warehouse. (As the curtain comes down, you see him walking down a darkened highway.)
10. Change your lead’s direction: The scene opens with your lead stepping from the rig of an eighteen-wheeler. As the truck pulls away, your lead starts up a dusty road.
11. Your lead’s last chance: An expensive car speeds past, ignoring the young man’s signal for a lift. Moments later brake lights flash; the car pulls onto the gravel shoulder.
12. Lead either wins or loses: The boy sees his father exiting the car. They make eye contact. His father reaches for the door handle as if to get back in the car. Then, grabbing his jacket from the front seat, the father runs to the young man. They hug. The father puts his coat on the young man.
13. Tie up loose ends: The father tells his young son to wash up, because they’re going to the club to celebrate. But the older son refuses to join them. Over dinner the younger son is given a high position in his dad’s company while the older son sits home fuming, thus presenting the conflict for the sequel.