Writing Advice: Plotting


Plotting can be a tricky thing. When you start a writing project, you might have an ending in mind and you might vaguely know what you want to happen. But, unless you’re someone who prefers to discover your story as you write, you might need a more concrete and fleshed-out plot or outline to start with.

The good news is that there are about a gazillion ways to plot your story. You can use the Snowflake Method, which I’ve used in the past. You can use a straight-up, simple outline format to document your rising and falling action. You could even simply write out Roman numerals on a piece of paper and create a story outline the same way you might have created an outline of notes in school.

Perhaps none of these methods apply to you. If you’re looking for something that is specifically character-driven and which focuses more on your characters’ intentions, you might want to try this fill-in-the-blank method of plotting that I discovered not too long ago. On her blog, Janice Hardy wrote about this method in detail. Janice lays it out very plainly — there are just a few items you need to determine when plotting. These include, trying to, when, but, therefore, and so.

If you set up a document with those words written down one side, you should be able to fill them all in to create your story. According to Janice, the resulting synopsis or scene description would look something like this: “Protagonist is trying to [goal of scene] when [what happens in the scene to create conflict], but [why the protagonist doesn’t want that], so [result of what happens in the scene].”

It’s so rare, in writing, that you can find a formula that will work well for you. I really like what Janice has laid out here and I’m going to try it when I plot my next story. I encourage you to try it as well, if you’re looking for something that will help you zero in on your characters’ motivations in a story or even just a scene. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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