12 April 2010

Planning Your Plot

Finished one huge project. Cleaning and purging before beginning the next, I found perched on my computer screen a document I presented to a group of 300 corporate defense attorneys last year in Hawaii. Before I file it away, I thought I'd share a part of what I wrote for them (I adapted it back to writers where it initially began in part in Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple).

Plot your story plan using the universal story form for structure and impact. The universal story form is the framework for developing a gripping story. Rather than creating a dry, episodic list of scenes to cover, arrange your story by cause and effect to best engage the reader.

Think of the plot planner as the route or map of the journey you envision for your story. When you first plan your plot, your route is likely to be sketchy with lots of gaps and dead ends. These gaps will smooth over and fill in as you come to know your story and characters better. Along your story route, the plot elements of dramatic action, characters, and thematic significance will rise and fall, like waves cresting.  The flow of these elements is like the flow of energy the Chinese call “qi” (pronounced “chi”).  The qi is the mainstay of life force, inherently present in all things.

Within your story, the energy undulates.  Although every story has its own energy, a universal pattern of energy rising and falling repeats itself. The greater your understanding of this stable format, the better able you are to determine where and when to allow the energy to crest, to create a compelling story.  Allow the energy of your story to direct the flow of your story. The closer you can re-create this pattern in your presentation to the readers, the stronger and more compelling your story.  A plot planner helps you map your story's energy and direction.