Hi there, a quick tip about how to plot your story in a very easy way. And bear in mind you can always refine and elaborate it later when better ideas arrive. It is a starting point or a fresh way of thinking.
Firstly, imagine a steep hill.
At the top of that hill is your protagonist’s goal. They do have a goal right? You need a clear goal. What does your protagonist need? What will they die for / strive to achieve? What do they want more than anything?
To achieve that goal your protagonist must climb up the hill and overcome every challenge you can throw at them. The harsher the challenges, the more engaging the feat. There need to be setbacks. There need to be barriers. There need to be twists. BUT and THEREFORE are your friends. X wants something BUT and THEREFORE X does this…
Now, find a big piece of paper (A3 or bigger). In pencil, draw a steep sigmoid curve from bottom (left) to top (right) – this is your Plot Hill.
In pencil, at the bottom of your hill write the protagonist’s starting place and their status. These needs to be pathetic or loathsome and far from their goal.
Starting at the bottom, add each step in your protagonist’s journey up the hill, one on top of the other. Add the challenges and the setbacks. Add whatever places, people, events you like. Include your twists in position.
When you have a continuous journey from ‘nowhere’ to your protagonist achieving their goal, you have the bare bones of your story. And now you can refine it, add to it, or start over again, Because it is visual and a mind-dump, it should freshen up your thinking. It should also be fun,
For other character’s sub-plots, draw a fresh hill with a fresh goal and add the relevant steps. The two Plot Hills can be later intertwined into a larger hill. And then you can write it up as a sequence from your beginning to your middle to your end. Bear in mind, that you might want to start telling your story in the middle.
If you have ideas with sufficient drama, you will already have low points, barriers, confrontations, set-backs, twists and such like. If not, back away, find a fresh piece of paper and try again a few days later. And note – you need a clear goal that is difficult to attain and lots of intervening sub-challenges and events. The rest is your protagonist’s journey up your Plot Hill.
Here’s a quick example (read from the bottom up):
Hilltop Goal : Recover the Black Pearl
Sails the Black Pearl away, leaves the captain
Defeats the Pearl’s captain & steals his booty
Boards the Black Pearl at night with his allies
Lures the Pearl’s captain to a deserted cave
Tricks the Pearl’s captain with promises of gold
Reaches Tortuga and finds the Pearl’s crew ashore
Pleads with Calypso to raise the wind
Becomes becalmed at sea, with no wind
Follows his magical compass
Sets course to find a hidden island in the fog
Escapes from the British
Steals a British Naval ship by tricking some soldiers
Recruits a miscreant crew from a rowdy public house
Finds Gibbs and sobers him up
Escapes from jail
Convinces someone to help him
Pirate, in jail, waiting to be hanged
START HERE – and read back up the hill
Try it and see how you get on. It should be quick and painless, provided you have enough ideas. If not, come back later when your subconscious has got to work. And don’t worry about the order of the events – you can refine those later. What is more important is getting down the main elements of the story you have in mind and refining it. You did write in pencil?
D M Jarrett
Author of Sean Yeager Adventures
Awesome books for bright, young minds