I write of writing, mostly, but also of love, tea, love of tea, roses, tea roses, poetry, ROSE POEMS, and work. I aim for scripturiency, concinnity, and prolificity. I post Weekly Writing worksheets and hold weekly online write-alongs.
The character’s home is often the main setting of the Ordinary World, and the environment in which the reader first encounters them. The people the character lives with at the beginning of the story not only help shape the character, they also help create the Stasis (beginning) state and the Resolution (end) state that define the character’s development arc, and also set the story in motion.
The character’s cohabitants may be their family, a team, a crew, or any other group of people they’ve fallen in with. For more guidance on this subject, you may like to read the sections titled, ‘How to Generate the Supporting Cast’, and ‘How to Create Character Groups: Teams, Crews, Families & Pantheons’ in How to Be the Heroine of Your Own Story.
When answering the questions, try to keep in mind what the plot requires of the character and of the people they live with. For example, to answer a question like, “What do they need to allow each other to do?” consider what actions the character needs to perform in the story…
Do they need to be allowed to miss meals?
Do they need to be allowed to bring strangers home?
Do they need to be allowed privacy?
You may want to consider the household as a whole, or to choose one or two representatives to study.
If the character lives alone, you may nevertheless like to consider their neighbours, or a part of their backstory during which they did live with others.
In this 1-hour writing workshop we create a fantasy story plot using randomly-generated elements. Why not take some time to sit back, relax, and learn how to plot a novel on one page? It’s fast, FUN, and it can change the way you view stories forever!
With NaNoWriMo around the corner I was wondering what I could offer to help you WriMos new and old…
Eventually I landed on the idea of filming another plot demonstration. You may have watched my previous demos if you’re on my email list; they’re probably my favourite spontaneous writing exercise and using pretty stationery this time made the process even more fun! :)
If you’re struggling with your story idea or plot right now, grab a piece of paper & PRESS PLAY!
How to Plot a Novel, Novella, or Short Story
How to Plot a Novel on One Page for NaNoWriMo & Beyond - YouTube
This video covers:
Why a plot, outline or plan is helpful, even if you consider yourself a “pantser”
How to plot a novel using one side of a sheet of paper
A bit about archetypal plot structures
The simple way to create a character arc
The 8 story stages and how they fit together
How to work with fill-in-the-blanks example scenes
Plotting order vs. Story order
You will need:
A sheet of paper
A pair of scissors
After you watch the workshop and understand the basic process of creating your rough plot, you may want to…
Story loops are a powerful technique for improving your storytelling. Before you read the examples below, allow me to give you an analogy.
Are you familiar with the parallels between storytelling and textiles?
There’s the word, “text” itself, then there are the phrases “spinning a yarn”, and “weaving a story”, and hundreds of others…
Knitting and crochet create fabric by pulling loops through loops, and weaving by alternating.
Story loops work along similar lines. A loop is created when a new story emerges, and is tied off when the story is concluded. These internal loops can be mysteries, anecdotes, character arcs, themes, try/fail cycles, or any other narrative phase that you wish to track.
But beware: if you drop a loop (i.e. you forget to close it), you risk your work unravelling!
They delay the conclusion of the story to create anticipation, and suspense.
They interrupt the story and make it more difficult for readers to remember key details, which can help to set up impressive plot twists.
They give the story rhythm and flow.
They increase the complexity of the plot and make the story richer and more engaging.
How to Use Story Loops
Here are some ideas for using your Story Loops worksheet. You can begin and end loops in any order you choose, have as many loops on the go as you feel comfortable with, and leave them open as long as you like…
The numbers along the left-hand side of your worksheet can stand for any story or narrative unit you find useful: scenes, beats, chapters, pages, minutes, hours, days…
And you can use the horizontal guides to start and end loops whenever you need.
Set Up Mysteries
Pose a question (about an event, a character, an object, etc.).
Discover a clue.
Answer the question – often this answer will spark another question.
Explain the clue (who owns it, who placed it where it was found, why it was there, etc.).
Complete an investigation.
A mystery will repeat these loops indefinitely to sustain the suspense. Usually, the closure of one loop will open another. The final loop will close with a dénouement or éclaircissement.
Relate Anecdotes or Jokes
Begin an anecdote.
Relate how you came to hear or experience this anecdote.
Relate why this anecdote is important to your story.
Conclude the anecdote.
Deliver a punchline.
Deliver a moral.
Characters telling stories within the story are an easy and extremely effective way of developing the plot, the characters, and the world. How about inventing an anecdote that perfectly sums up the personality of each of your characters?
Begin telling a story from one character’s point of view.
Switch to the narrator’s point of view.
Switch to a second character’s point of view.
Return to the original character’s point of view.
Return to the narrator’s point of view.
Return to a second character’s point of view.
“Meanwhile…” is a classic indicator of a new story loop opening while another is still ongoing. Switching story perspectives is a very convenient and convincing way of delaying closing a loop and creating more pleasurable anticipation for the reader.
Keep Your Readers Engaged
Foreshadow a coming event or revelation.
Give an overview of the story, the world, or the character’s life.
Start a flashback or flashforward.
Detail the event you foreshadowed.
Return to the details of the present moment.
Return to the present time.
Open new loops near the end of a page or chapter and leave them open until the next page or chapter, in order to encourage readers to keep reading.
Set Up a Frame Narrative
Introduce the story as part of the “real world” (the reader’s world).
Introduce the writer or reader as a character in the “real world”.
Begin telling the story.
End the story.
Conclude the character’s story in the “real world”.
Conclude the story of the story.
Sometimes the frame narrative will only be present at the beginning and end of a story, but more often the frame narrator will intervene in the telling of the story and create further loops.
Insert a Mini Quest
The character needs something from someone.
Someone asks a character to retrieve something.
The character sets off on a quest.
The character completes the quest.
The character rewards the quester.
The character fails to complete the quest.
Mini quests are perfect examples of small, compact loops that can be inserted at almost any point of a story for conflict and development.
Interweave Try/Fail Cycles
A character begins planning something.
A character sets off to do something.
A character’s task becomes harder.
A character fails to do something.
A character succeeds in doing something.
Interweaving try/fail cycles can help you give a sense of a character who is faced with increasing difficulties.
A story problem is a simple way to envision your character’s plot arc. Choose your main problem, break it down into smaller challenges, and allow the main solution to appear as the character tries to deal with these tasks.
Determining the main story problem can also help you solve a real-life conundrum, craft a customer journey, or study an existing text.
Breaking Down the Story Problem
You can begin with the main problem and break it down into its components, or begin with the main solution and break it down into its components. Or you can work in practically any order you find helpful!
Decide on the main problem. This is the root of the difficulty your character is facing.
Break the main problem down into symptoms, or smaller tasks or challenges. These are the manifestations of the main problem. The character will usually try to tackle these until they are able to see past them to the root cause of these symptoms. If you’re following The One Page Novel method, this will be the Shift.
List the feelings evoked by each of these symptoms. These feelings will help you draw the reader in to an understanding of how the character is trapped by their individual symptoms.
Consider the measures taken by the character or by other characters to deal with the symptoms. These reactions will often entail try/fail cycles (part of the Quest).
Determine the main solution to the main problem. This is the key, final piece that the character needs to overcome their main story problem. Usually it will involve unlocking an inner resource that they hadn’t realised they possessed (the Power).
Optionally, you can use the Advantages & Disadvantages sections to brainstorm ideas to help or hinder the character in dealing with their symptoms.
Main Problem: Cinderella is powerless. Symptoms:
1. Her step-mother and sisters treat her like a servant.
2. Her only friends are mice.
3. She can’t afford a dress to wear to the ball. Feelings:
1. Injustice, disappointment, being unloved & unappreciated
2. Comfort, homeliness, dissatisfaction
3. Poverty, lack, disappointment, longing Measures:
1. She tries to treat them with kindness, despite their bad behaviour.
2. She tries to be content with their company.
3. She tries to make her own dress. Main Solution: Demonstrating kindness & inner strength.
Of course, there are many other interpretations to this fairytale. You might say that the main problem is her father’s lack of provision for his daughter, or her step-mother’s inability to care for her, and you could argue that the main solution is something else too; perhaps the intervention of her fairy godmother, or her marriage to the prince.
Thinking through these possibilities can help you pinpoint exactly what the main problem and main solution are, deep down, past all of the surface symptoms.
Stack up several “main” problems to make the character’s life even more difficult, or promote symptoms to main problems for more complexity.