I need a what?

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

As many of you know, writers during November fall into two categories – Pantsers (those who don’t use outlines) and Plotters (those who do).  Pantsers create wonderful manuscripts starting with nothing more than an idea and some characters.  We discussed characters last week, so this week’s blog is dedicated to the Plotters.

It’s true that novelist Chris Baty says a plot isn’t necessary for a first draft, however it makes moving the story along in the direction you want much easier.  We’ve listed below three ways to plot your story.

I.  Plot in 3 Acts
Similar to what we all learned in school, creating an outline helps keep your story on track – unless your characters hijack it, but we won’t talk about that right now. This is a big picture method of outlining.

  1. Act One – the Setup: wherein you introduce your MC (main character), chase her up a tree, she gets down but has to pay for the damage to the tree (first inciting incident).
  2. Act Two – the Confrontation: wherein your MC discovers the only way to pay for the damage is to borrow from a loan shark who also happens to own the tree and demands full payment in three days, discouraged your MC bemoans her fate at a coffee shop and friends a budding lawyer barista there.
  3. Act Three – the Resolution: wherein your clever and resourceful MC & her friend discover the tree was on city property, thus she isn’t responsible for the damage and is able to payback the loan shark.

II.  Mountain of Setbacks
Very similar to the Three Act Plot, the process described in “Ready, Set, Novel!” uses setbacks for your MC, lots and lots of setbacks. This method allows for longer plotting.

  1. Construct the canon – figure out what your MC wants most in the whole world (story).
  2. Build the mountain –  take away what your MC wants and place lots and lots of obstacles in her way.
  3. Light the fuse –  create an igniting incident to get your MC moving up that mountain. (Introduce your villain!)
  4. Plot the problems – arrange the obstacles on the mountain from least to worst-case-scenario.
  5. Meet her on the other side – your MC will have changed from her challenging experiences. If not, make better mountains.

III.  The Snowflake Method
This method, designed by Randy Ingermason, is available here.  It is best used by serious outliners and plotters and takes a few weeks to complete. The basics are:

  1. Write a one sentence summary of your story.
  2. Expand that sentence to a full paragraph including setup, disasters and ending.
  3. Write a one page summary for each MC including motivation, goals, conflicts and epiphanies.
  4. Expand each sentence of the summary paragraph (#2) to a full paragraph. Each paragraph except the last should end in a disaster.
  5. Tell the story from the viewpoint of each MC, expanding each character’s summary paragraph (#3) into a full page.
  6. Expand each paragraph from #4 into a full page synopsis.
  7. Expand your character synopsis from #5 into a full-fledged character chart, adding details.
  8. Make a list of all the scenes you’ll need for each page from #6 to write the story. Spreadsheets work best, sticky notes are acceptable.
  9. Write your  story.

What method will you use to plot your novel and why? Tell us in the comments below.

About jaycegrae

A writer, learning.

3 thoughts on “I need a what?

  1. I think I might start with a very loose construction of the Three Act model. It might end up like a three-legged chair, but maybe trying to balance will tone my abs?

  2. I use the method in Plot vs Character, where you map out your characters thoroughly, then map out the plot.

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