Last week was the Myers Fiction Newsletter, so don’t forget to go back and learn more about this month and what I’ve been working on! The last writing post shared covered Understanding the Craft of Writing, where we talked about why we consider writing a craft, what makes up the craft of writing, and the elements of fiction. This was a high level blog post and now we’ll begin working down a few levels with each post to help you master each element of fiction. For today, as showed by the title, we’ll skim the surface of Plot and explain why it’s important. Thank you for your continued support and please enjoy!
What is Plot?
The word plot has many definitions, “a small area of planted ground,” “Ground Plan,” “a secret plan for accomplishing a usually evil or unlawful end.” But what we as writers are concerned about is the literary definition of plot, which is “the plan or main story (as of a movie or literary work.)” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)
With all the mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let’s look at Plot as an element of fiction and in laypeople’s terms.
Plot is the sequence of events that occurs from cause and effect. Look at the stories that have made you happy, angry, sad, or anything else on the emotional spectrum. You’ll find a series of events that wouldn’t have happened that way without cause and effect. There are a lot of times people talk about movies or books where if this one character had only done this, the book would have been over much quicker. And sometimes critics use that as a slander to the book. But in the end, it was a certain decision by the character that made the events happen the way they did.
The stories with directly related cause and effect are so intriguing because it reflects so much of our lives. You wouldn’t be where you are right now without the choices you’ve made in the past. Many of you wouldn’t be reading this post had you never decided to always work on your writing craft, or set a New Year’s Resolution to be a better writer, write your first book, or learn more about writing.
I attended a short one-hour webinar on January 27, 2023, hosted by DIYMFA creator Gabriele Pereira and led by Daniel Wallace. One of the big topics was the character-first story, but it also covered a lot on plot. One of the biggest takeaways in the plot was giving the protagonist a project that they’re already working on in the plot. It will most likely not be directly related to the plot, but it gives you, as the writer, something to work off of as you plot your novel. I’ll go more in depth on this in future posts, but thought that was a fun tidbit to share.
Why is it Important?
While we may not always register it, nor may audiences, but when movies and novels don’t work, it often can fall on plot. Even with the character-centric novels that are so popular, a weak or broken plot will pull the readers from your story. Plot is more than a day by day, minute by minute account of what happens in your novel, but the major points where big choices are made with even larger consequences. So plot becomes important because it is the guide for your reader to follow through the story. If the big plot points happen before a story begins, there should be a dramatic effect that you’re looking into as the actual portion of the story.
A building with many levels but no stairs in-between is like a story without a plot. The outside may look pristine and the inside may contain the coolest rooms and exhibits known to humankind, but without a straightforward way to experience each level, we’ll be left climbing the walls to peek through a window. While I’m a pantser, or gardener in some circles, I’ve seen what the lack of a plot can do to a story.
My first attempt at a self-published novel, Extoria, was missing a strong plot, and I paid for it. Beyond the many grammar errors, it embarrassed me to share my story because I realized I had plot holes throughout. These were interesting events, and I had many kind words shared about the book, but three were too many questions left unanswered that a clear plot would have remedied.
A plot should be like a guideline for your reader to follow through with your story. Much like the arrows on an IKEA show floor guide customers through the displays and entire building, you should have markers throughout your story highlighting the key points that give your story continuity. It should relate each chapter or scene to those bracketing it. Take the time to ask, does the cause lead to the effect? Would it make sense for my character to act out this way after such-and-such happened? A focus on plot gets your story snapped into linear logic for the reader.
So now that we’ve scratched the surface of the plot, prepare to dive a little deeper in next week’s post. Also, on a final note, we just hit 100 followers for Myers Fiction! Thank you for your continued support, and allowing me to grow as a writer and teacher of writing every week! Thank you for reading, and as always, keep writing, keep learning, and stay fresh, my nugs.
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