How to Write a Story Plot

“Hi North, I have an idea for a fiction book that I think people will really like. I am not a writer per se, so I am not entirely sure what to do or how to start. I have the idea, but I don’t know what to do with it. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to go about this? Thanks, Cortney”

Thank you, Cortney, for your question. It is great to have a story idea already as this takes away some of the work that most struggle with, so you are off to a great start! The key you are looking for here is a plot, the events that will take place within your story, or, as I like to put it, the actual storyline. For example, how the book will end, the purpose of the book, and what your character will accomplish in the story.

Every story has a plot, and every plot needs a writer to create it. Without a writer, there is no plot. Unfortunately, planning out a plot is what some new writers struggle with. When I first started writing, I didn’t think I needed to plan out my story. I used to just sit down and write, but this was the short coming of my writing. I lacked a storyline and a purpose. I wrote a sequence of events that I thought made sense when, in reality, they were a jumble of events that didn’t lead up to the ending scene in the story. After my first completed story, I realized this and I felt terrible. I thought I, as a writer, failed, but that was not true! I still had the idea; I just needed to perfect it. If this has happened to you, don’t worry, it’s fixable.

For today’s post, we are going to start from scratch. There are six steps in all. If you are someone like Cortney and already have an idea for a story, you should skip to step 2.

1. Come Up with a Story Idea

Write a short sentence or paragraph explaining what you want your character to do or accomplish in your story.

The first thing you should do when creating your story is to have an idea of what you want this story to accomplish. For example, “I want my main character to realize that he or she is different from other people and that’s okay.” Or “I want my main character to solve a crime.” These examples are a great start. This means that you have an idea of what you want your character to do in your story and the purpose of the story.

Example:

2. Flesh Out Your Story Idea

Create the details of your storyline and its purpose.

After you come up with your initial idea, you need to start thinking about your story’s details. Ask yourself:

  • Who or what is your story’s antagonist?
  • Is the story trying to convey a meaning, such as the heartbreak of losing a loved one or the heartthrob of falling in love?
  • Is your story meant to entertain or explore?
  • Is there a hidden meaning behind your story?
  • How do you want your story to end? Happy, sad, or a cliff hanger?
  • What is the main event that will happen in your story? Such as a supporting character dying to help push your main character (protagonist) forward?
  • What is your character’s purpose in the story? Are they meant to find the killer, catch a ghost, or get the girl?
  • Do you want your character’s story to help your readers? Or do you just want to entertain your readers?
  • Are there going to be supporting characters that help out your main character, such as a best friend?

Example:

3. Create Your Character (Character Profile)

Write a description of your character.

Ask yourself:
  • How old is your character? What do they look like? What is their name?
  • Do they have a strong opinion about something?
  • Are they shy, strong, or brave?
  • What do they like and dislike?
  • Do they like conflict or avoid it?
  • Are they experienced in anything?
  • Do they have a superpower?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they rich, middle class, or poor?
  • Are they sociable?
  • Do they get along with people, or are they a loner?
  • Do they have an accent?
  • What is their background?
  • Do they have family problems?
  • Do their attributes or characteristics fight your storyline or help it?
  • Do they have a best friend?

There are hundreds of more questions you should ask yourself, but the above questions will help you start fleshing out your character and make them a real person. I find that the better and more real your character is, the better you will understand how your character will act and react to certain situations making for a better and more life-like story.

Example:

4. Create Your Scene (Scene Profile)

Write a description of the place that your story will take place in.

Ask yourself:
  • Where is the town/place where your story takes place?
  • Who are the supporting people in this place?
  • Is your character new to this place, or did they grow up here?
  • Are there familiar faces?
  • Where does your character live within this place?
  • What’s their house/apartment like?
  • Is a neighbor an important factor in the story?

Example:

5. Plan Out the Events Within Your Story (Timeline)

Create a series of events that will take place to achieve your story’s or character’s purpose and put them on a timeline.

Now you need to combine your character profile and your scene profile. You need to think about:

  • The situation that your character is going to be in.
  • How did they come to into the problem?
  • How does the story start?
  • What events are going to happen that lead to the ending of your story?
  • What do you want you character to express?
  • What do you want your character to go through?
  • Do you want your character to learn something?

Anything can happen, it’s your story. For example, think about the book series The Hunger Games.

  • What events lead to Katniss Everdeen becoming the Mocking Jay?
  • What events made Katniss the hero?
  • What events or side events, along the way, pulled at your heartstrings and made you feel something?
  • What were the main events that lead to the ending of each book?
  • How did the story progress?
  • How did Katniss, as a character, react to these events?
  • Did her feelings make these events happen or her actions or both?

Example:

6. Start Writing

Use your character profile, scene profile, and timeline to write a draft of your story.

When writing your first draft it is important to think about a few things:

  • Make sure that your character reacts appropriately to the events according to their profile. For example, a shy character will not suddenly become a voicetress or boisterous person unless events or reasons provoke that character to do so.
  • You can change anything you want. As a beginning writer, I thought that my first draft was how the story had to be, but that’s not true. If you are not happy with something in your story, change it. If you don’t like an event that takes place, change it. Nothing is set in stone.
  • Don’t become burnt out. If you don’t feel like writing today, then don’t. If you push yourself too hard, you will start to hate what you are doing. You will associate bad feelings with this story and you won’t want to finish it. It took me almost a year to finish my first story and it was only 50 pages. I always had to take breaks because I noticed that the content wasn’t as good when I pushed myself. It had less depiction and less emotion. Take your time when writing your drafts.

Overall, this is the most crucial step of all and the most fun. This draft can take a while and you may come back in a few days or weeks and realize that you are not happy with an event or something in your story and want to rewrite it. That is perfectly fine. This story isn’t just for the people who will read it; it is also for you as a writer. This story is an extension of your imagination and in some cases your main character becomes an extension of who you are or who you would like to be.

I wish everyone the best of luck in their writing endeavors! Don’t forget, if you have a question ask it! Leave a comment down below!

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