When discovering a new idea for a book, there are many factors involved, primarily: What is the story, and who is the story about? These two elements are the driving point of building a plot line. I am not advocating that you cannot create a storyline without knowing who your character is, but I am saying it might be easier to have an idea of who your character is before nailing down this embarrassing and tragic moment in his past. Here are some questions that will help guide you to plotting your outline, story, and character.
Issues to ask yourself before writing:
1: What genre is it?
2: What POV is the novel? 1st? 3rd Omni or limited?
3: Start with a single, simple thought/ sentence, and expand. In movie terms: slowly pull back and let the surroundings filter in.
4: What is your reoccurring theme?
You can have more, but these are some important questions to ask.
Let’s jump right into the plot points. Below is the quick view, followed by broken-down model
1: The Rut: The first chapter, life is going on as normal, preparation for the unexpected.
A: Spark: The change in their lives that start the story
2: Quest: The beginning of the journey
A: Aspiration & Purpose:
ACT II: b: Setback/ Side Quest
3: Rise to Climax
ACT III: B: Critical Choice
C: Setback 2/resolution of side quest
4: Climax: All hell breaks loose. Did all the characters come together or did they remain their own storylines?
5: Effects: Though they sound the same, they are not. With every event, there are two parts: cause and effect. The cause was the start of the quest, the effects are what happened because of it.
A: Resolution: After cause and effect, what’s going on in the wake of turmoil? What does it look like when the dust settles?
Now, that you have an idea of what it looks like, let’s look closer and ask ourselves the tough questions. Before we begin, take a look back above. Any line starting with a letter a, b, or c, can be moved around, tailored to your specific needs. Just keep that in mind while crafting your plot.
ACT I: The Rut: This is life just going on as usual. We are getting an idea of what our character’s life was like before the spark. In the Harry Potter books, this is the summer portion of the story, the front-end. For this segment, in relation to character and story purposes, ask yourself the following questions:
What is your main character? Hero? Anti-hero? Villain? A villain and they do not realize it?
Who is your main character? What do they look like? How do they talk, think, act? What is their moral code? What is their beliefs (religion & morals) What are their strengths/weaknesses? Do they have any unique qualities or powers? What are their weaknesses?
The Spark: This is what changes the story from dull to exciting. Keep in mind, there may be more than one spark. In Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, several smaller sparks lead to the quest. The first is Gandalf’s arrival in the Shire. This mini-spark leads to another mini-spark, Bilbo’s party, to another mini-spark, leaving behind the ring of power, to yet another, Gandalf’s discovery of its actual design. Gandalf returns to the Shire and thus begins the quest.
Quest: You may have an idea of what the quest will be, but how can you make the temptations more irresistible and the stakes higher? What little twist can you add to make it more substantial? In The Borne Identity, Marie is caught in the middle between the shadow organization and their target. To make it worse, the target, Jason Borne, doesn’t know who he is or why they are after him. This is that twist.
Is there a deadline (time pressure) for the action to come to a resolution? Could there be? Who can create it? Does the hero only have until the full moon?
What are the alternatives ideas to handle the situation? Can supporting cast help articulate those ideas or be forceful for that method? In creating a supporting cast around your main, bring people who have different strengths, weaknesses, ideologies, and backgrounds than him/her.
ACT II: Setback and side quest: How can we hurt our characters physically, mentally, and emotionally? How can we make them grow and evolve?
What is the best outcome of this evolution? What is the worst? Did they give up their beliefs or reinforce them?
Rise to Climax: We are making headway, but not quite there yet. This should be the bulk of your second act. In The Empire Strikes Back, this portion is Luke training with Yoda, preparing him for the climactic battle with Darth Vader.
Make sure you touch back on your side quest or setback. Is it resolved or is it something that can be carried to the climax? Just don’t forget about it.
Epiphany: Think about character development: do they grow? Do they become worse? No change?
ACT III: CLIMAX: Think about the height. Things are bad… how can we make them worse?
Critical Choice: This is where the hero is resolved to carry out the plan. For The Empire Strikes Back, this is when Luke rushes off to Cloud City to confront Vader. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this is where Harry decides to meet Voldemort in the Black Forest and face his death.
After the climactic battle or situation comes the effects and resolution. They may sound the same, but they are not. Effects deal with the main cast, especially the lead. Are they a better person? Did they die? Did they revert to their former self? Realistically, people change in small ways, not grand and sweeping ways that most stories show. One enjoyable part of Harry Potter was that while the character grew over the series, he remained faithful to his core elements. After defeating Voldemort, he did not congratulate himself or let it go to his head. He returned to his life, what was left of it, and his friends were there with him. So, remember, effects deal directly with the main cast.
Resolution: You could clump this with the main cast if that is all that the story entails, but it should have a more globular aspect. Remember, life goes on, but it won’t be the same. In Return of the Jedi, we don’t see the resolution, we see the effects, especially in the re-release with the extra scenes added at the end showing other planets. This is still the effect. A resolution would entail seeing a new government installed and who leads the new administration.
I hope this helps you craft your next story. Take what you like, tweak as you will, but keep writing.
If you enjoyed this content or you’re an avid, epic fantasy reader, check out my book, The Bearer of Secrets, on Amazon. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited, eBook, and print.