Plotting - 10 Basic Dos and Don’ts

Plotting – 10 Basic Do’s and Don’ts

What are the most common plotting problems? Here are 10 basic do’s and don’ts for writers to follow when they’re plotting.

We often have frustrated first time novelists on our courses. They are trying to complete a book, but they haven’t thought about plotting. They haven’t thought about all the conflict they need to include.

[Suggested reading: The Top 10 Tips for Plotting and Finishing a Book]

One of the most common problem for first time authors is their inclusion of an unrealistic, unworthy, or absent antagonist. Yes, your hero will always be his or her own worst enemy, but you need an antagonist to help your protagonist realise how strong he or she can be.

There is no conflict without an antagonist. It is difficult to write a book if you do not have an antagonist. It would be easier to write a diary or an essay. Imagine watching The Matrix without Mr. Smith. The antagonist provides physical and psychological setbacks. He or she introduces points of resistance and stands between the protagonist and his or her story goal.

The antagonist‘s function is to try to prevent the protagonist from achieving his or her story goal. The antagonist raises the stakes for the protagonist and causes excitement, tension, and a plot.

[Writing Tip: The antagonist is as important as the protagonist. If you don’t have an antagonist you don’t have a plot. There are some great tips for writing about antagonists in 10 Essential Tips for Writing Antagonists.]

Alfred Hitchcock said that a great story is: ‘life, with the dull parts taken out.’ With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of what a plot is and isn’t about.

10 Do’s And Don’ts For Writers To Follow When They’re Plotting

A plot is not about:

  1. Contented characters who live a trouble-free existence.
  2. An author or character’s interior thought processes.
  3. An author or character’s philosophy of life.
  4. An author trying to send a message.
  5. Characters battling the elements, or society, or a life condition.

A plot is about:

  1. Characters whose lives have been turned upside down in a negative way.
  2. Characters who act and react.
  3. Characters who talk, breathe, eat, argue and interact with other characters.
  4. Characters whose actions and words show a story.
  5. Characters who take on other characters who may represent or personify, society or a life condition.

If you are an exceptional author, you may not need a plot. The rest of us do.

Try these do’s and don’ts for writers to follow when they’re plotting. What have you got to lose?

Writing Tip: Always remember your reader: 10 Things Aspiring Novelists Should Know

Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson

Are you looking for more inspiration? Read these posts:

  1. The 5 Qualities Published Authors Share
  2. The Writing Secrets of 10 Authors
  3. The Importance Of Inciting Moments

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Posted on: 7th December 2013
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