Library Writers Group: Plotting (Part I)

28 Mar

Our library writers group is having members take turns leading the discussion. I missed last month’s discussion on script writing but was glad to make it this month when my friend Gary talked about plotting. There was a lot to learn so I’ll jump right in.

If you’ve never heard of K.M. Weiland, you should listen up. She’s an author who’s willing to share the secrets of the craft and she’s put a ton of resources on her website, Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s full of great resources that Gary shared with us.

One thing that’s always been hard for me is the difference between a scene and a sequel. A scene is the action and a sequel is the reaction. Each scene in a book is a small chunk of the plot. It has a goal that the character is trying to achieve, conflict that keeps them from achieving the goal, and ends with either disaster of not achieving the goal or resolution of achieving it. It’s followed by a sequel, in which the character has to figure out what to do differently to meet the goal and reevaluate his or her strategy. A sequel has a reaction, a dilemma, and a decision. I’ll have to go back through my novel and be sure I have these  in the right order! No sequels without a scene first and scenes progressing the story along steadily.

We next talked about the classic Three Act Structure. Gary referenced the below image from Weiland’s website. Click the image for a full-sized view.

Three Act

The part below the graphic explains it pretty well but I’ll go through it shortly here. Weiland breaks the structure down with some examples so I’ll use her example of The Lion King to illustrate. Act one is for the author to set up the novel. There’s an inciting event that either begins the story or takes place before the main action of the plot. The Inciting Event leads to the key event which is the beginning of the book’s plot. In The Lion King, Simba’s birth is the Inciting Event because it means Scar is not next in line to the throne. The Key Event is Scar convincing Simba to go to the Elephant Graveyard which might result in his death though Simba survives.

The first plot point ends Act One and happens around 25% into the plotline. Though this might be the same as the key event, it won’t always. In the case of The Lion King, the first plot point is Simba running away after blaming himself for his father’s death. Act Two begins with a strong reaction to the first plot point, in this case, Simba running away from home and changing the course of his life forever.

At about 35-40% of the plotline, the first pinch point shows up where the antagonist shows up. Scar taking over the Pridelands is the major event in The Lion King. About half way through the book, the protagonist reaches the turning point when reacting to what has happened turns to action and the direction of the story changes. Simba starts to act when he returns to the Pridelands to take them back from Scar. Ending the Second Act are a second pinch point where the main villain shows his power such as Scar abusing Simba’s mother in front of him, and a second plot point, the confrontation between good and evil. We see this when Scar tries to kill Simba in a stampede.

The Third Act begins at bout 75% of the book at the second plot point just discussed. From here we get the resolution such as Simba overpowering his uncle and forcing him to confess his crimes to the pride. The climax of the story is the last 10% of it, which ends in a climactic moment such as when Scar dies. The resolution should only be a scene or two of the story and is a reactionary phase of the book where we see Simba take his place as the head of the price.

We went over a lot more but this post is getting long! I’ll save more of it for tomorrow. Check back then for an explanation on a few approaches to plotting and a discussion of them.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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