Plotting the Novel A Workshop on the Devious Art of Plotting

A good plot is both the skeleton and sinews of the story, providing direction, definition and the power to move readers’ feelings to a satisfactory resolution. Yet many writers find plotting difficult. By understanding and experimenting with the nine-point arc of a typical plot, workshop participants will learn the devious art of plotting, discovering that plots are driven by the wilful or unconscious desires of the protagonists and that plot and character are two sides of the same coin —that the deepest desires and true personality traits of the major characters can only be unravelled through the exigencies of the plot. Getting the plot and character perfectly entwined is both the storyteller’s craft and art.

The structure of a story may be viewed as analogous to a journey

a compass —  the premise… theme… threads.

a map  — the plot

an engine —  the motivation of the protagonist (plus other central characters).

the fuel ―  dialogue…  which drives the story

The depth, dimensionality and authenticity of the plot are vital.  As the story may be a quest — either a physically or a psychologically dangerous journey in which the protagonist has a very hard time ― the writer needs to create a subtly structured  yet believable chain of events that subjects the characters to all the physical, emotional and mental punishment the story is about to hand out.

Some of the elements covered in the course

  • What comes first — plot or character? Does it matter?
  • The difference between story & plot
  • Motive and consequence in plot
  • What drives the plot?  Believable motivation in characters.
  • The place of conflict in the story
  • Making the story – and its resolution – come out of the conflict
  • How to thicken the plot
  • How all this plays out.  An analysis of the film – ‘Thelma and Louise’

© John Harman 2011