How do you structure your plot?

3 May

Lately I’ve been having an unprecedented burst of creative energy when it comes to The Thesis. This is perhaps spurred on by the embarrassment of a copy being entombed in my university’s library for the rest of time.

You see, I reread The Thesis and wanted to scrap the whole thing. There are people who disappear, names that change, the entire first chapter is soaked in rain which then disappears conveniently before it can cause any problems down the road. But most importantly, the plot is winding, meandering, with scenes that don’t contribute to the overall arc and an ending that doesn’t have much of a point anyway.

Of course, I’ve tinkered around with plot structure outlines before, but I was never very serious about really plotting things out, creating a coherent outline, or thinking about the different steps a plot really should go through to be coherent and satisfying to read. Truth? I hated those stupid plotlines I had to write out for book reports in school, and I can’t get them out of my head.

But structuring the plot, I think, is the key to getting some of these kinks sorted out. I’ve written and rewritten this story over and over again and having no outline or solid structure simply isn’t working. I need to write up a guide to follow to make sure I’m on track and not gallivanting off in the hills with some secondary character whose sole purpose is to have some immaterial side-arc. You know what I mean?

I know there are tons of books on this subject, but for a quickie I took to Google and found some promising links:

The 8-Point Plot Arc (quite like the look of this one: simple, yet satisfying)
Three-Act Structure
Six-Act, Two Goals

Then, of course, there are a few other plot-related help sites like the 11 Plot Pitfalls and How to Add Subplots. But I want to know: Do you struggle with plot? How do YOU structure your plot? Do you structure it intentionally at all? What resources have you used, and what worked for you? Any books on writing plot recommendations? Please leave me your comments below!

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3 Responses to “How do you structure your plot?”

  1. Kathryn May 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Hello, Emily who is currently worrying about the same things that I am. My darling roommate whom I love is actually making significant headway on this topic while I blithely ignore what I should do (I am continuing to ignore it; it is the INFP in me, I fear). She has broken her story into arcs and is making sure that each arc is complete and then making sure that each arc moves the characters in the correct direction. I don’t quite understand it in detail, just enough to envy her for making her process seem so logical while mine is so la-di-da, but you might ask her and tell her that I sent you.

    • inkhearted May 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      Thank you for the advice, Kathryn! I’ll have to talk to her… plotting is so difficult! 😦 Part of my problem IS that I have so many different little arcs that I lose track of all of them, so it sounds like Eileen’s system might be a good one for me. I’ve just spent the last couple of hours rethinking some of those arcs, getting rid of a couple unnecessary ones, and figuring out how to make others work. I THINK I’ve gotten it down to a manageable size. It’s going to take some rewriting, but hopefully the entire book will be a bit more coherent!

      How is yours going??

      • Kathryn May 4, 2014 at 12:03 am #

        Cutting hurts. I got down below 139,000 yesterday though. Mostly what I’m doing at the moment is going back and adding in the worldbuilding details (like pockets and a bit more about the religion) that I’ve been given over time, and then trying to tighten (always trying to tighten), and I’ve a few points that I know need revising (I need to make my villain weaker so that the weapon that he gets at the end of the book will make more of an impact, and yesterday I cut out what was the opening scene of the thesis because it just didn’t make sense). I also started yesterday to consider what certain symbols like spiders might mean and trying to make all of the symbology match. Mostly spiders seem to used in similes around secretkeepers–except once, and that once may need changing….

        I’m getting it as polished as I can over the next few days and then I’m printing it to do a more thorough read (and so I can carry it around with me).

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