5 Essential Exercises For Plotting

5 Essential Exercises For Plotting


We are posting a series of Essential Writing Exercises to help you tell your stories. This post includes five essential exercises for plotting.

On our course, Writers Write ONLINE, we spend time creating characters, plotting, learning to write dialogue, learning how to pace, and learning how to show and not tell. We teach you about viewpoint, setting, description, and scenes, and much, much more. In my series, I am going to concentrate on a few of these areas.

To help us get through this time of social distancing, I am going to post a series of Essential Writing Exercises to help you tell your stories. We’ve included exercises about creating characters, dialogue, viewpoint, plotting, setting, beginnings, and pacing.

This week I have included five essential exercises for plotting.

5 Essential Exercises For Plotting

When we teach Writers Write ONLINE, we find that writers don’t spend enough time thinking about the structure of their stories, and the most basic story structure is a plot.

Many writers get stuck at the end of the beginning or in the middle of their novels because they don’t have a plan. They also discover plot holes they can’t fix.

At its most basic, a plot involves two characters (your protagonist and antagonist) who have opposing story goals. These opposing goals create conflict, which makes the novel interesting for readers. Plots have negative beginnings, complicated middles, and generally positive endings

ABSOLUTE MUST-READ: What Is A Plot? – A Writer’s Resource

Exercise 1: Everything Changes

Write an inciting moment. This moment is an incident that changes your protagonist’s life – generally in a negative way. The antagonist is usually the cause of this. A great inciting moment is about change that leads to conflict, or conflict that leads to change. Something happens that is important enough for your protagonist to act or react.

Choose one of these openings and start writing:

  1. Everything changed when ________ came back to ____________.
  2. All four of  ___________’s wives turned up for his funeral.
  3. She had 24 hours before they locked down the city.
  4. The note on her front door read: ‘You are going to die.’
  5. The rumours started when _________ left. Nobody thought he’d gone willingly.

Remember:

  1. Name the characters.
  2. Use the five sensesdialoguebody language, and the internal thoughts of the viewpoint character.
  3. Show the setting through their interaction with it.

This exercise will force you to start your story at a moment of crisis. If this moment is strong enough it will give your story the impetus it needs to become a novel.

Exercise 2: The Punishment Fits The Crime

‘Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.’ ~Paul Gaugin

MUST-READ: Why Revenge Is Such A Brilliant Plot For Beginner Writers

Write about a life-changing event where your protagonist loses something or someone. It should be so shattering that your character is motivated to seek revenge. Then write a 10-point plan for how your protagonist will achieve this story goal.

  1. Name the characters.
  2. Use the five sensesdialoguebody language, and the internal thoughts of the viewpoint character.
  3. Show the setting through their interaction with it.

This exercise will show you that you need motivated characters for a novel to succeed.

Exercise 3: Motivations

Write about why your protagonist and antagonist are motivated to achieve their story goals. Write two scenes from each of their viewpoints in first person present tense. Include their external an internal motivations. For example, your character could be motivated to find a good job (external) to find a sense of self-worth (internal).

  1. Name the characters.
  2. Use the five sensesdialoguebody language, and the internal thoughts of the viewpoint character.
  3. Show the setting through their interaction with it.

This exercise will show you if your main characters are motivated enough to carry a story of 80 000 words.

MUST-READ: The 7 Qualities Of Compelling Character Motivations

Exercise 4: The List

Make a list of 60-80 scenes that will make up your novel. Generally, a novel is made up of this number.

This exercise will reveal if you have enough of a story for the length of a novel. If you don’t, you may want to turn your idea into a short story.

Exercise 5: The End

Write the last page of the story that you started in Exercise 1. Answer the question that was asked by the inciting moment in the beginning of the book.

This exercise will show you that you have to end up somewhere.

MUST-READ: 7 Extremely Good Reasons To Write The Ending First

The Last Word

Use these five essential exercises for plotting to help you plan your novels. The more you plot and plan, the easier it is to actually finish writing your stories.

Join us for Writers Write ONLINE for many more exercises like this (with feedback), and learn how to write a book.

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this blogger’s writing, read:

  1. What Is Dramatic Irony & Why Should I Use It?
  2. 5 Essential Exercises For Creating Characters
  3. 5 Essential Exercises For Writing Dialogue
  4. How To Finish Writing Your Book
  5. Thriller Book Title Generator
  6. The Almost Moment Is The Secret To Successful Romance Writing
  7. What Is Direct And Indirect Characterisation? And Which One Should I Use?
  8. 5 Steps To Creativity In Writing
  9. How To Write Your Novel From The Middle Like James Scott Bell

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course.