Guest Post: Les Jackson

The New Writer’s Plot:  A Quest to Finish

Here is to you, because here is where you begin to write your story.  You can start small as Steven Spielberg did with short stories early in his career.  You can start big and write an epic novel series like the JK Rowling.  Whatever you choose to write, make it your intention to finish what you start.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain

I am currently writing my first novel.  I crashed and burned twenty years earlier with a poorly written novella.  My query letters received more attention than the novella, but I kept submitting my work for review, but I finally gave up.  Then I decided that it was more important for me to be happy, and writing made me happy.  So I started to write again.

Nobody can force you to get started, but consider this:  you can only finish if you get started.  Where do you start?  Any story worth reading has a plot and a protagonist to carry out the plot.  That sounds like a good place for any new writer to start.  Until you have created and developed a plot for your fiction story, consider your own plot line here.

Exposition.  What prompted your decision to start writing fiction stories?  Give the world a taste of your background, the issues you know and care about, what gets a rise out of you.  Why are you writing the story you are writing at this moment?  Let the world know that you’ve been summoned in some manner to write this exact story.  You are compelled to write it, and so you must.  Proclaim to the world that writing fiction stories is what you are passionate about doing in life.

Rising Action.  This is where your true journey begins.  Get ready to walk the walk of a writer.  Don’t worry!  You’ll get help along the way, but you will also face temptations and dangers, too.  You’ve come too far to turn back now.

Story Goal.  The plot of any writer’s story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. Your goal as a writer is what pursuing your creative art is all about.  Make a list of potential goals you have as a writer, and choose one as your focus.

Consequence.  You are the protagonist in your own story.  Ask yourself, “What disaster will happen if I don’t achieve my goal? What am I afraid will happen if I don’t (or do) achieve my goal?”  The answer to these questions is the consequence of your story. Write a list of possible consequences you may face along your plot outline. Choose the worst consequence to be the counterpoint to your story goal, and prepare yourself for the worst as you hope for the best.

Requirements.  Requirements describe what you must accomplish in order to achieve your goal. Think of this as a checklist of one or more events.  Ask yourself what event or events need to happen for you to achieve your goal, and list as many possibilities as you can think of that require your immediate attention.

Forewarnings.  Events that show your consequence is getting closer are called forewarnings, and these make your fans and followers anxious that your consequence will occur before you can succeed at your goal.  Name some possible events that could serve as forewarnings in your story.

Prerequisites.  Events that must happen in order for the requirements to happen are known as prerequisites.  This is an added layer of challenges to your plot.  Take a look at your chosen requirement and make a list of possible prerequisites that you must accomplish before you are able to meet a particular requirement.

Preconditions.  A junior version of forewarnings, preconditions are small impediments in your plot. These are stipulations that others make and achieving your story goal becomes more difficult as a result.  A classic example is Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth’s quest for happiness is made more difficult by the terms of her grandfather’s will, which state that the family property can only be inherited by males.  List possible preconditions you may encounter so that you are prepared to meet that precondition quickly.

Costs.  One sign that a problem or goal matters to you is that you are willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve your goal.  These are your costs.  An example is a hard-boiled detective who gets beaten up at some point in his investigation. Make a list of possible costs you might be forced to endure in order to achieve your story goal.

Climax.  Imagine the toughest part of your journey.  This is the moment of truth, the moment you let your fans and followers know that you are battling the demons in your story, for better or worse.  Let them witness the blood, sweat, and tears of your climatic moment.  Let them see you reign triumphant!

Dividends.  You will receive rewards along the journey towards your story goal.  Unlike requirements, dividends are not necessary for your goal to be achieved.  They may be unrelated to the goal entirely, but they are something that would never have occurred if you hadn’t made the effort to achieve your goal.  List possible ways to reward yourself

Falling Action.  Completing the journey wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be.  In fact, you are ready to do it again…only better the next time around.  The world is a better place because of your work of fiction; your town is a better place because you are its citizen; and you are a better person because you have gone where you wanted to go.

Resolution.  You have accomplished your goal!  Finally, you are creating your own story.

As a writer, you have complete control over the plot line of your fiction story.  The same is true of your own.  Believe it.  Create your own story, and start today.  For more inspiration and information, you are welcome to Turn the Page with me at my blog of the same name.


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