GETTING IT WRITE
For the next few Tuesdays I'm going to post one of the tip sheets I use when running my writing courses. I hope you find them useful. Do let me know if you've any tips you want to add. This week's topic is about plotting your story.
Plotting Your Story Tip Sheet
Decide on your theme and plot. The theme is the subject of your story, such as love, jealousy, revenge etc. The plot is based on your character’s problems, it tells your character’s story in a series of connected events. It shows what conflict your character faces, why the conflict has occurred and how your character deals with it.
The basic structure of a plot is like the three act structure of a film in that it has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of your story should set the scene, introduce the character and let the reader know what the main conflict in the story is. Make your beginning interesting, don’t waffle on or you’ll lose your reader’s interest.
The middle develops the action and conflict but this is the place when writers often falter and the story goes stale. Your story should ebb and flow like the tide, with conflict gushing in then some time for the reader to relax when things seem to settle down for a while, or perhaps some humour, before the tide of conflict sweeps in again.
The ending is where the conflict is resolved in some way – this could simply be the character having grown enough to cope with the situation they are in. Make sure your ending is credible so that your reader feels satisfied with the story. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending but it should be a satisfactory one.
It’s a good idea to do a bit of preparation before you start writing your story. Work out a rough outline of the plot so that you have a guide to work with. If you’re writing a novel you might find it helpful to do chapter or scene outlines so that you can make sure there’s enough going on and it all pans out.
Get to know your characters, especially your main character. Writing a paragraph about them or filling in a character profile form will help you make them more rounded and realistic. Think about what they look like, how they walk, talk, what they like doing, what they dislike, what they are scared of. Their likes and fears can come in useful when developing conflict in the story.
Your setting is where your story takes place. Where does your character live? Where do they work? What does their neighbourhood look like? Paint the picture for your reader but make it concise, don’t waffle on. If part of your story takes place abroad or in a place you haven’t been, do your research. You need to make your reader feel as if they are really there.
If you're writing a children's story you'll find more useful tips in my book GET WRITING:CHILDREN'S FICTION.