09 September 2013

Rising and Falling Plot Action and Tension

Dear Ms. Alderson:

I've been reading your "Blockbuster Plots" and loving it, but I have a question about the plot planner (examples of what Plot Planners and how different writers use the plotting method.). As I understand it, we're to draw the lines for an ideal plot on a piece of banner paper and then we write in our scenes above and below the lines, depending on whether our protagonist is in challenged/in control in the scene or not. So far, so good.

From a diagnostic point of view, though, wouldn't it make more sense if we "graphed" the plot we've actually created (showing the various rises and falls in our plot action and tension), and then compared our graph to the ideal pattern? In other words, when we place our scenes along a line that shows rising action, we may not notice that our our conflicts are not actually escalating as they should.

For example, our own scenes may be too static or may actually decline (God forbid), but we might be fooled by the contrary visual cues of our Plot Planner, with its nicely rising lines. Maybe you discuss this elsewhere, but it seems like a good intermediate step would be for the writer to evaluate each scene for its level of tension or conflict (maybe using a 1-to-10 scale), and then show this on a "graph" (i.e., a plot planner that shows the pattern of our actual scenes, rather than an ideal pattern).

Once we've created this graph, we could then tweak the pattern (by rearranging the order of the scenes, by deleting static scenes or by ramping up the tension in existing scenes) so that our story more nearly matches the ideal plot pattern. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Many thanks again for writing "Blockbuster Plots" and for making all those terrific Youtube videos

Your teaching is amazingly clear and helpful!
Salt Lake City, Utah

*****Thank you, Kate, for your thoughtful email query. I applaud your understanding of the Plot Planner concept of rising action perfectly! I agree with everything you say and believe you've come up with an excellent suggestion for writers creating a Plot Planner for their own novel, memoir, screenplay.

~~~~~Take the PlotWriMo Pre-Challenge

To prepare for PlotWriMo and familiarize yourself with the Universal Story and the basic plot terms we'll be using throughout December:

1) Begin writing now to complete an entire draft of your novel, memoir, screenplay in time for PLOTWRIMO, beginning December 1st.

2) Plot your story step-by-step with the help of
The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories

3) Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

4) Refer to The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing
for writing prompts for scene #1 to the very The End, one prompt at a time.

5) Watch the Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. Scroll down on the left of this post for a directory of all the steps to the series. 27-step tutorial on Youtube

6) Watch the Monday Morning Plot Book Group Series on YouTube. Scroll down on the right of this post for a directory the book examples and plot elements discussed.

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