09 Sep Literature Month: How to Write a Good Plot
A plot is the heart and soul of any narrative. It allows you to present your characters and how they react to the environment around them in a cohesive way. Think of your plot as a foundation; if your plot makes no sense, your story will crumble. These are a few tips and tricks that I have found especially helpful in helping me create good plots:
Everyone’s writing process is different. Ideas for my stories come to me when I least expect them-like when I’m about to fall asleep. Not all these ideas are good and most of them never even make it past the brainstorming process. Brainstorming allows you to test the viability of your idea; if you’re brainstorming on a good idea, it becomes easy to develop the plot and characters. Similarly, a bad idea quickly falls apart during a brainstorming session. Brainstorming also allows you to connect characters and ideas, assign roles to your characters, form relationships between your characters and so on. Because I’m partially a traditionalist and partially lazy, most of my brainstorming happens in my brain but feel free to take a pen and paper to help you out with your process.
- Start with a basic plot:
When writing a plot, you might be tempted to come up with a convoluted or confusing one that makes you seem clever. Don’t do it. The best way to start a story is with a solid and basic plot. That way, you and your audience know what the story is about at its core. After creating your basic plot, you can add subplots and subtext to make your story complex. Remember, a basic plot allows your characters to shine. It’s okay if you want to write an Inception type story but keep in mind that Christopher Nolan worked on that screenplay literally for years before he chose to direct it. If your audience isn’t really sure what your story is about, they probably will not be able to relate to it or like it and your hard work would have been for nothing.
- Make sure your characters are relatable:
The reason why relatable characters are so important is because they keep your narrative grounded. They allow your audience to empathize with your story. Since reading books and watching movies can be regarded as stepping into the shoes of someone else, you want to give your audience shoes to step into. That way, it doesn’t matter if your character is an orphan boy in a galaxy far far away because the loneliness and longing that he feels can be felt by every single person who reads your story. Your audience might not understand the world that your characters come from but what they will understand are the emotions that they know all too well.
- Establish stakes:
As a writer, you should ask yourself: “Why should my audience be invested in this narrative?” It’s an easy enough question to ask but the lack of an answer can threaten your entire narrative. If you find that you cannot answer this question, ask yourself this: “What does my hero stand to lose?” Establishing stakes is key to any story because your hero having a goal means nothing if he doesn’t have anything to lose-be it his life, his money or even his mind. It’s important to note that your stakes don’t have to be life threatening and what your hero could stand to lose should be dependent on the situation that he is in.
This list is in no way definitive. There are many things that I left out that are also key to creating a good plot. This list is basically a summary of the common issues that I believe are easily overlooked when people try to create stories. I highlighted these issues because although they can be easily overlooked, the success or failure of a narrative is highly dependent on them.