Updated: Aug 2, 2021
You might wonder what goes into writing a book chapter or even how to start writing a book at all! Today I am going to give you some tips on writing a book /pilot /screenplay by examining the important element of plot! Understanding plot is one of the steps to writing a book. In fact, plotting a book is one of the best ways to improve it. So let's delve into it!
A lot of people talk about how to plot a novel vs. a screen play vs. a T.V. pilot. While there are differences in all these categories (of course) the baseline is the same for plotting. So what is this baseline? Well, let's find out!
First of all, you need a protagonist with a problem. We talked about this a little bit with our characterization post, but you can't have a plot without at least having a protagonist to take on that adventure!
Now that character has what I like to think of as their regular life. They are waking up day after day, experiencing their reality as they know it. Everything isn't great. They often feel like something is missing, but they don't know how to go about fixing it. They may even be so oblivious that they think their life is going alright, but it's really not.
Then something happens. Let me repeat that because it is really, really important. SOMETHING HAPPENS. You are that little person pushing over the dominos, causing the story to take off! Without creating a problem for your character you will not have much of a story. Those dominos are going to stay standing, and what is the fun in that? And just like with dominos you can't have big events spaced too far apart or your domino line will fail leaving both you and your reader sad. No sad readers please!
I like to think of plotting in levels. There is the big overview plot, the act plot, the chapter plot, and then the scene plot. Today I will go over the overview plot and then we will dive into the deeper levels in other posts.
I'm sure you've heard about the three act structure. And I am not here to bash the three act structure, really I'm not, but I find it much easier to think of the three acts as... four (as a lot of TV pilots do). Why? Well, look at the traditional three act lay out:
Act I: 0%-25% of your book/movie/pilot
Act II: 26%- 75% of your book/movie/pilot
Act III: 76%-100% of your book/movie/pilot
That's all well and good, but it makes Act II very intimidating, at least for me. If you notice it is twice as big as Act I and Act III. Ever heard of messy or slumping middles of a story? That's because there is so much space to get lost in Act II. So what do I do? I slice that act in half and make four acts of equal parts like this:
Act I: 0%-25% of your book/movie/pilot
Act II: 26%- 50% of your book/movie/pilot
Act III: 51%-75% of your book/movie/pilot
Act IV: 76%-100% of your book/movie/pilot
There. Much better. True, I have one more act to write, but none are scarier than the rest. The three act structure might work fine for you, perfect! This works for me.
So what do I do with these four acts? I plan where the big events are going to happen in my story. And really this isn't that complicated to figure out where to put them. People love structure. We have a sense of pacing deep in our mind that we like authors to follow. Ever read a book that seemed to drag on and on until you got to the 'good' parts? It likely put too much space in-between big events. So where do we put them? I made a chart to show you.
I will go over the acts one at a time in later posts but for now I want you to look at the chart and see where there are arrows. Those are the big events you must figure out if you want your story to stay on track. If you'll notice most of them are in the middle of the act and at the end (except for the hook and the climax). Not as difficult as it sounds, right? As you can see plotting this way can act like an outline to writing a book. Make sure to have something happen at those points and you are well on your way to plotting out a great story!
I hope that you have enjoyed these beginning tips to writing a book! In my next post I will start with Act I. We will go over what all those points in the light green section mean. I will use our character from our elements of fiction posts (the magician trying to become the most important sorcerer in the world) to show a real example. I have no idea where that story will take us! I will find out... as I plot it out with you in real time. Until then, I wish you...