Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Writing Tip #8 Plotting

There is a story of a man in a rooming house who took off his shoes every night and dropped them on the floor one at a time, with a pause in between. The lodger below had complained about this many times. One night, after dropping the first shoe, the man suddenly remembered the complaints and put the second shoe down gently. Twenty minutes later, a cry came up from the floor below: "For God's sake, drop the other shoe!"
Every plot sets up a series of expectations that makes the read wait for the other shoe to drop. We wait for the resolution of a conflict, or the solution to a puzzle, or the explanation of a mystery, or just the completion of a pattern, and it is this anticipation, as much as anything else, that makes us read on.
A plot, then, is the structuring of events to create anticipation, either in the form of anxiety (in a story of conflict or mystery), or of curiosity (in a puzzle story).
In a well-structured story, the ending may be a resolution, a revelation, a decision, an explanation, or a solution.
Resolution is the end of a conflict by the victory of one side or the other.
Revelation is the exposure of something previously hidden.
A Decision story ends when the protagonist makes up his/her mind about something important and difficult.
Explanation, obviously, resolves a mystery.
Solution provides the ending for a puzzle.
A successful plots rests on five pillars.
1. a believable and sympathetic protagonist;
2. his/her difficult problem;
3. his/her repeated attempts to resolve the problem, which continually fail and make his/her situation more desperate;
4. a crisis point, his last desperate chance to win;
5. a resolution, brought about by means of the protagonist’s own courage, love or ingenuity.
The reverse of this plot is the story in which the central character is the villain; the story ends with his/her defeat rather than with a victory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Traditional modes are well and fine, but I also like when the villain "wins" in the end to avoid the cliche of an expected ending. I enjoy too when the "good guy" doesn't get his HEA or HFN ending.
Matthew Darringer