|Photo by Luis Llerena via Unsplash|
For most writers, even seasoned wordsmiths, this can be rather challenging. Sometimes you see the ending of the story in your mind’s eye, or the beginning, or scattered glimpses of a plot but you need to put things together. In this post I'm not going to lay out a conventional approach to outlining. No, instead I will talk about the tips and tricks that we can use to find the necessary inspiration for creating the ultimate plot. Let’s begin.
Tip #1: Experiment with Flash Fiction
The first thing you’re going to need is the elevator pitch for your story. Something brief, but complete. Flash fiction, regardless of your chosen topic or genre, is an amazing way to get the creative juices flowing while also setting in stone these three things: beginning, climax and ending.
What is flash fiction? It’s creating a complete story with those three components in a few hundred words. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Try it. Take your plot idea and then break it down into a micro-story. This makes the task less daunting than a full-size novel or script but comes with its own set of challenges that will prepare you.
Tip #2: Explore the End Goal
What exactly do you desire the end result of your story to be? Do you want the reader to be left hanging and unfulfilled, longing for more? Or, would you rather it be so inspirational or perhaps sad that they break down in tears? What’s the goal? Really take the time to think about this because the answer is obviously going to influence every setting, character, plot movement and any dialogue.
Start from the ending. What’s it going to take to get there? How much deception is necessary? What kinds of characters will it takes to reach this goal? With the end goal in mind you can more clearly outline your plot and everything in it.
Tip #3: Move Like a Sales Funnel
Obviously part of your goal is to get the reader to go from the first word to the last. It’s no different than getting a prospective customer inside a sales funnel and then leading them by the hand all the way to the checkout line with a nice expensive product in hand. Your product is the end goal. You need them to EXPERIENCE something. To see something. To learn something.
The beginning needs to get them intrigued. Then, each page should move. Your plot needs to be active and continuously moving, taking the reader somewhere they need to go to reach the end goal. At no point should your plot stagnate. There should be no filler. Every word must be necessary. And, no distractions…keep them focused. Think like a salesmen, but your tools are the feelings the reader feels. Those are the only things that matter.
Tip #4: Consider the Basic Elements, then Break Rules
At this point the reader’s mind is programmed to expect certain things. The basic elements will always be there and be required but you can definitely break the rules to make your plot (sales funnel) more compelling and transfixing. Here’s the core elements you can shift and shape in unexpected ways to get modern minds to think twice. For a much deeper breakdown of each check out “How to Create a Plot Outline in Eight Easy Steps.”
- Goals: Again, you need to know where you want to bring people before you can take the first step.
- Consequence: Now, reflect on what will happen to the setting, characters and action if that goal isn’t met. It’s more reverse psychology that tends to help you find any holes in the plot.
- Requirements: What’s it going to take to get that reader to the finish line? You should write/type it out on a piece of paper so that you can clearly see everything that’s needed.
- Forewarnings: Readers should have blinders on, but of your own design. Show them what they need to see on the horizon, but nothing more or less.
- Costs: No plot can exist or keep people engaged without problems, friction, troubles, etc. Furthermore, without these elements your characters will not come across as genuine or realistic.
- Dividends: Every choice that characters make in a plot produce consequences and rewards. The rewards, or dividends, are experienced by both the reader and the characters and must be included for a plot to have any real pull or significance.
- Prerequisites: These are the things that must happen in order for the requirements mentioned earlier to come about.
- Preconditions: Think of these are small prerequisites, or forewarnings that act as tinier speed bumps in the plot that help it to be consistently engaging.
May the plot be powerful. Let your writing be its own reward.
What about you? Do you have any tips for developing a creative story plot?
Leslie Anglesey is a writing coach, associate professor and a mom of two who enjoys outdoors, hiking and diving. She also runs a website with academic writing tips and prepares to publish a book about creativity.
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