Previously in Plot Structure, we dissected plot into nine interrelated parts—
- Inciting Incident
- The Bleakest Moment
- The Revelation (Moment of Clarity)
- The Decision
- The Hole
- After Photo
Let’s turn back to our outlines and see if we’ve plotted these milestones. If you haven’t, pause, ask some questions, come up with some answers, and make some choices. If you’re satisfied with what you arrive at, insert these events into your outline. If you need more time, take it. Simply insert the element name as a place marker.
- Opening introduces
- Character(s) who want something (core conflict)
- Provide a glimpse of the protagonist’s psychological plot information (that ties into theme, his inner goal, and the eventual lesson he will learn).
- Allude to theme (either through the above, thematic statement, metaphor, etc.)
- Inciting Incident
- Something upsets the status quo. Conflict. A threat or challenge happens to the protagonist and sweeps the reader up in the tension and all that hangs in the balance. How will the protagonist turn things around and land on his feet?
- High Stakes demand that the hero rises to confront the obstacles, as The Goal exceeds his actual or perceived abilities.
- Protagonist Responds
- Plot Point: The protagonist picks up the gauntlet. The event you choose must convey a sense of inevitability born from the constraints hemming in your protagonist. He must go forward, though he doesn’t want to.
Step by step, one series of questions after another, and you’ll find yourself on your way to crafting a compelling story idea. Remember to plot with your readers in mind. Will they care about your protagonist and whether or not he attains his goal? Is he likeable enough to gain our sympathies?* Is the goal intriguing enough to gain our interest? Is the conflict powerful enough to elicit our emotions?
*At this stage your characters might be mere silhouettes. You have a vague idea of who he or she—they—will become. We’ll delve into character development in the subsequent chapter. For now, make a note: Your protagonist and his allies must be likeable, admirable, distinctive, funny, charming, powerful—winning. As their creator, your success will rely on their personalities to engender our affections, as well as our joy, sorrow, anxiety… the experience of the story’s ride.