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Old 01-28-2005, 07:57 PM
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Default Re: Taking Your Writing to the Next Level

Understanding Plot

The plot means just about everything to your story. It is the universal system that all written novels and stories follow, even though how story approaches this system will be as vast as the possibilities are. You may already know about this system or this could be your first time exposed to it. Either way, it’s a good idea to get familiar with it when you write your story.

Since the trilogy Lord of the Rings is known to most people, I’ll be using it as an example for plot. Even if you’re never read the book or seen the films, you can still grasp a good idea of what section covers by reading the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) example.

Here is what Plot would look like as a chart. For reference, each section is given a number, and that number corresponds with the numbered sections on this guide.

1. Exposition – The exposition is shown as a straight line. That’s mainly because nothing has really happened yet. In the exposition, you reveal the world you have created, as well as the beginning characters that are going to be involved and the environment they are in. Right now, the main character is unaware of the challenges that lie ahead. The problem or threat might be revealed to the reader in a case of third person perspective writing, but the main character should not be aware of it.

LOTR Example: In the beginning of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Shire is a peaceful place, and nothing seems wrong. The characters Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf are introduced, and the setting is laid out. The reader (or viewer…) learns about the ring, but the problem that lies within it has not been revealed.

2. Conflict – The conflict is the area at the end of the exposition and just before the Rising Action. This is the exact point where the main character learns of the problem that is at hand. Other characters might already know about it, but the main character needs to find out that the problem exists before the conflict stage is reached. It then becomes clear that the main character now has one main objective. That objective can slightly change in nature as the story moves along, but it must be the main objective. It is here where the main character leaves behind the world they are familiar with to embark on the journey they must take.

LOTR Example: Frodo learns from Gandalf about the power of the One Ring that Bilbo had for so many years. Fordo also realizes that the evil influence of the ring has been rubbing off on Bilbo, who has become very possessive of the ring. Gandalf tells Frodo that the ring holds the spirit of Sauron, and it needs to be destroyed. Frodo then leaves behind Hobbiton with Sam by his side and embarks on the journey to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

3. Rising Action – The Rising Action is undoubtedly the longest part of the story, usually taking up at least 85% of the story’s length. The rising action includes all the trials and obstacles that the main character and his or her companions must overcome in order to complete their objectives, as well as the actual journey they undertake. Anything between the Conflict point and the Climax is all Rising Action. The line moves upward to show that the intensity of the story is rising as well as the change that in taking place in the main character.

LOTR Example: The Rising Action begins when Frodo and Sam leave The Shire and the Rising Action ends when they finally reach the last platform before the fires of Mount Doom. Yes, the Rising Action is that big. All the conflicts and battles that the members of the Fellowship of the Ring encounter are all Rising Action. The story changes and grows in intensity when the rest of Middle Earth realizes that the fight against Sauron and his dark army grows to a fever pitch. Frodo also changes in the story, slowly falling under the influence of the ring, as well as the exhaustion he suffers from during the long journey.

4. Climax - This is where the whole situation changes. The Climax is the one critical moment in the story that will determine if the main character will succeed or fail. It is here where the main character finally finds a way to destroy the threats that forced him to depart on the journey, or the forces find a way to defeat the main character.

LOTR Example: The Climax in LOTR is when Frodo, Sam, and Gollum struggle and fight over the ring on the platform above the fires of Mount Doom. This is the last critical moment of the story because the ring is on the verge of being destroyed or saved. The quest will succeed if the ring falls into the fire, but the quest will fail if Gollum escapes with the ring.

5. Falling Action - This is where the story beings to close. The final conflict has been resolved, and either the main character has proven to be victorious or he or she has failed. The line moves downward because the intensity from all the events of The Rising Action is beginning to fade away. The problems that the threat presented are disappearing, but the line NEVER falls back to where it began. The presence of the threat will not be forgotten, and some of the problems that it presented may have left scars on the main character or the force that defeated the main character.

LOTR Example: The Falling Action in LOTR begins the very moment the ring sinks into the fire, and Sauron is destroyed forever, along with his orc armies. The threat of the orcs and the evil powers of Sauron are gone, but his actions have still scarred the lands. Many humans, elves and dwarves had died in the struggle against the dark armies. Fordo too, is also scarred and will never forget the experience. The wound he received from the Witch King will never completely heal, and he still has signs of exhaustion even after the ring is destroyed. He even mentions that while they did save the Shire, it wasn’t saved for him. He can never return to the way things used to be.

6. Conclusion - This is very last part of the story, where the plot beings to close. The reader (or viewer) is shown the world after the situation described in the story has taken place. Every character has changed from the events, and they each prepare to embark on the life that awaits them after word, forever affected by the events in the story.

LOTR Example: Frodo leaves on the ship that will be leaving Middle Earth, and Sam finally settles down with his family and carries on the story that Frodo left behind.

Making the Characters

Your cast of characters is the engine block to your story. Their choices, their actions, their thoughts, and their emotions are what give them depth and uniqueness. Also, without characters, it wouldn’t be a story, it would just be a depiction of scenery, and there would be no plot whatsoever.

Characters can be all shapes and sizes, and they don’t always need to be human. After all, Pokémon are always non-human characters, but a very high percentage of them are usually very minor characters, and are mostly used for short battles. Writing a story focused on a non human character can be a more enjoyable and rewarding experience, but you need to make sure you compensate for the difference. Whether you center your story around a human character or not, both types can be very well done, and both can be very poor when it comes to quality. It all depends on the implementation.

First, the reason why you create a character is because you want them to fulfill a role in the story, whether it be from being a villain or a hero or a supporting character. Most stories start off with only a few characters mentioned, and as the story progresses, more characters are added to fulfill more roles. It’s important not to create a useless character who just hangs on for the ride until the end. They need to be doing something that at least supports either the hero or the villain, even if it is only minimal.

Also, don’t create too many characters, otherwise readers are going to easily forget who is who, and it’s going to be even harder for you to explain what all these characters are doing at the same time. If it becomes necessary, remove them through various ways such as death, saying goodbye for good, or some other means. Just keep in mind that there needs to be a logical reason why they do so, and you must prepare to deal accordingly with the event. If a supporting character dies, it’s definitely going to have a significant impact on the other characters as it would in real life. It’s honestly better that you avoid creating too many characters in the first place, rather than find yourself trying to think of ways to get rid of them.

Lastly and most importantly, give each of your characters a highly detailed personality and stick to it unless they’re supposed to change from the experience. If all of your characters act in very similar ways, it’s not going to be very interesting to the reader, and it’s not going to seem very realistic. Some characters can be strong and determined, others will be arrogant and aloof, some can be funny and whimsical, while others can be silent and concealed. There are many, many different types of personalities, and taking advantage of a wide array of them will give your story much more variety and will seem much more interesting to the reader.

Last edited by Dog of Hellsing; 05-08-2010 at 07:30 PM.