• Douglas Sharp

But what is the Plot?

After you have come up with a general idea of what you want your story to be, you have to nail down the plot. A plot is the events of the book that lead from the beginning to the end. You start at point A and end at point Z. Every point in-between is the structure of the plot. You can have it be a simple plot that is straight forward and easy to predict or throw in twists and turns with every red herring imaginable in order to keep your readers guessing. You can write a good, engaging story however complicated the plot is, so don’t think you need to add misdirection and red herrings to everything you write. It all comes down to your story. I tend to prefer writing more simple plots because it allows me to concentrate more on the characters.


Photo by: © Konstantin Kirillov ID 4379987 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

All plots fall under two types of stories; plot driven and character driven.  No matter what story you write, you have to have a plot in order to move the story along and characters that you want people to connect with.  The difference between a plot driven and character driven story is what drives the story.  Determining which plot type you are writing comes down to what is changing most in the story.


A plot driven story tends to be more about what is happening around the character than what is happening within the character.  Novels in the mystery genre are a great example of a plot driven stories.  Take characters like Sherlock Holmes or Poirot.  These characters have multiple books written about them but they basically stayed the same person through every book.  These characters are put into situations where they have to discover what happened and how.  Things around them change and the characters do not.  Another example is military novelist Tom Clancy, who writes around the character and may use them in multiple books.  The character arc is not huge.  The main focus of the book is what is happening around the characters and how they are involved in those circumstances. 

 

A character driven story features large character arcs, many times over the course of multiple books in a series.  You can track where the character started as a young, inexperienced person, to the hero or leader that they are by the end of the series.  Many times they are completely different people because of what has happened within them and to them.  Romance and fantasy novels tend to be character driven books.  Romance is a good way to see change in the course of one novel.  The fantasy genre tends to have series where you will see multiple changes to a character or characters.  A character driven book is focused on the changes within the cast of the story.


This is not to say that you don’t need good characters or good plot in every book.  Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular detective characters in literature.  His books would not be as enjoyable if it wasn’t for who he is.  The plot, however, does not focus on how he is changing but how things around him are changing.  Well written plots amplify the struggles a good character will go through, increasing the attachment a reader may feel for that person.


As I said, I tend to write character driven stories.  I find that I enjoyed books more if I see change happening within the character.  I like to feel connected and begin to care about what is happening within them.  To me, strong characters are more likely to save a book with a weak plot than a strong plot is likely to save book with weak characters.  It is the struggles within the characters that draw me to books.


In the first book of the Soul Link Chronicles, Descendent, one of my protagonists is a girl named Rebecca.  She is 17 years old and looking forward to graduating high school and starting her training as a doctor.  A terrible accident causes magic within her to awake and she begins seeing strange things.  The threat of an invasion by an alien race is revealed and the teacher who is training her in magic expects her to fight this invasion.  The one problem is that she is a pacifist.  This character trait becomes a conflict in the story that has to be resolved by the end.  Either she has to change her stance or allow everyone on Earth to die.  The plot is a simple save the world plot but the driving force is the conflict within Rebecca and the other characters.  This makes Descendent a character driven story.


It doesn’t matter which type of plot you decide to write.  The only thing that matters is that this is the story you want to tell.  If you’re not enjoying writing your story, maybe this shouldn’t be the story that you write.  Writing is about sharing the enjoyment of creating worlds or scenarios and resolving the conflicts that come up in them.  If you aren’t enjoying writing the story, your readers probably won’t enjoy reading it.  Finding the right type of story to write is as much about our enjoyment as it is the reader’s enjoyment.  As an author, I mean to share the pleasure of another world with all my readers.  I do have to consider my audience when writing a story but I shouldn’t let that take away my joy in writing it.  Your story will be much better if you are enjoying writing it.  The type of story your writing can have a lot to do with that.  Consider carefully how you write your story and every one will enjoy the experience.

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