Quick Journey to Plot Exercise: Your Turn!

My books are character-driven, so I might say, "Oh, I never plot." But in fact, I've learned to do basic plotting by using a character journey as the big structural apparatus really helps. That is, very basically, what is my character's journey through the story? Like:

Independence to affiliation

boy riding bike.jpeg


Distrust to trust


Innocence to corruption


Shame to self-acceptance

or where the character starts emotionally/psychologically and where she/he ends up. Let’s try “independence to affiliation.” Chart the main steps involved:

Act 1. Beginning: She is devoted to her independence in the first act, and I show that (how will the reader know this). She should probably be given the choice to accept help but refuse it.

End of act 1 (maybe around ch. 2): Something (what) happens that makes her independence more of a problem than a solution. (What happens and how does she react)

Act 2: Things heat up on the external plane and make her independence or self-reliance a REAL problem, and she gradually has to change in response to 3-4 events in the external plot. Some group or person should probably be giving her help, or trying to, or trying to get her to affiliate.

End of Act 2: In the crisis/dark moment, her need to be independent really complicates the external conflict, and she's in huge trouble (or she's about to lose her goal or lose something essential). In the dark moment, she has to choose to change and ask for help or something that compromises her independence but allows her to receive help from being affiliated with someone or some group.

Act 3: In the climactic scene, where the external plot resolves, her newfound willingness to accept help allows her to conquer whatever the main conflict in the outer plot is.

End of Act 3: Because she has now chosen to affiliate, she is more happy and safe, but also might keep her independence a bit by becoming not just a follower but a leader.

That is, you're going to have certain things happen in the external plot.  If you have a sense of what the main character needs to learn and accomplish-- the journey's start and destination-- you can make each of those plot events push the character down that journey road.

As I start a story, I try to have a really good sense of where my character starts out, and how she'll react to each plot event given that starting point, and usually, of course, the basic endpoint is fairly obvious once I know how she's limited or damaged at the start.

I like to analyze plots, but my own... I'll get bored if I outline too deeply ahead of time. What I'd love to be wild and yet disciplined enough to do is to write wildly and freely in the first draft, and then use journey, outlining, and structure to revise it in a second draft.



The End... of the Beginning

The End... of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning
Most of us storywriters are obsessed with the openings to stories—that is, how to effectively start the plot and introduce the characters. But the opening has to end for the plot to really get underway. So as you're revising your opening, look at the last few paragraphs of the first chapter or wherever your "opening" ends. Does the end of the open “open up” to the complications of the story?