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What do you mean I need a plot outline? But, my brain doesn’t work that way!

A successful plot has certain elements throughout the novel as the protagonist battles the antagonist and it is easier to plan where these are going as you write. (Learn from my mistakes.)

When I started writing, I just sat down and wrote, but now I have to go back and “fix” my plot. It would have been so much easier if I had a clue where things were going the first time through. That’s what I’ve been doing these last two weeks, rearranging and rewriting my plot. (I’ve been so consumed with my writing that I forgot about everything else, like this blog… Sorry about that.)

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about why to plot, but I didn’t write how to plot, because I hadn’t figured it out yet. Now that I have, I’m sharing what I’ve learned. (Aren’t you lucky? I hope this helps.)

A good method for plotting the structure of a story is Larry Brook’s. (His website is here.)

A story can be broken down into four parts and three plot points (and two reminders of the bad guy). All of which are necessary for a good plot.

Each part makes up about 25% of the story. (Part one and four can be shorter, about 20%, making parts two and three 30% each.)

Part one– Introduction and set up of characters, setting, and world. What is everyday life like? This is where the stakes are established and the reader is made to care about the characters. The character’s motivations are clear. What do they want?

Plot point one– The turning point. Something monumental happens, something that changes the main character’s life forever. It does not have to do with the antagonist. This is just the point of no return. In my novel, my main character becomes an apprentice in magic.

Part two– Trying to achieve their goal, reacting to what just happened. (There needs to be a hint of the bad guy to remind readers that he’s out there about halfway through this part.)

Plot Point Two– Another twist, something is revealed. (See examples of this from Harry Potter and The Hunger Games below.)

Part three– The hero investigates and fights back. He or she has learned from their experiences, making them stronger and smarter. (Again, there needs to be a hint of the bad guy about halfway through.)

Plot Point Three– The last revelation, there’s no new information, or characters after this point.

Part four– Fighting the bad guy, time to kick butt! Followed by the resolution, where everyone lives happily ever after. (or not.)

Does your novel have all of these parts? If not, you might want to think about changing that. Believe me I know how hard it is, but it’s worth it in the end. (Plus, it’s fun. I know I’m weird, but I’ve really enjoyed it.)

Still confused? Here are examples of the plot points from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Hunger Games. (Warning: Spoilers ahead, though I tried not to spoil anything too big.)

Plot point 1

Harry Potter- Harry boards the train for Hogwarts

Hunger Games- Katniss accepts Peeta as her partner

Plot point 2

Harry Potter- Harry realizes Hagrid’s package was in the vault that was broken into at Gringotts

Hunger Games- Katniss decides to fight back (tracker jackers)

Plot point 3

Harry Potter- Harry realizes it’s Voldemort who wants the stone

Hunger Games- Katniss finds Peeta injured