Plot Outlining

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Plot Outlining

Postby Kellemora » 24 Aug 2012, 17:08

Plot Outlining:

In a typical full-length novel, a writer often uses over 150 minor plot points; often referring to these as scenes; 10 to 12 main defining plot points, and of course, the all so important First Plot Point, that define when everything changes and the story goes off in a new direction.

There are numerous web sites devoted to "Plot Points" that you can peruse for a better understanding of what Plot Points are and how to use them to improve your own writing skills. However, many were found greatly lacking in explanations of how to set up an Outline that includes each major and minor plot point.

When writing with the intent and hopes of going viral and your book possibly spawning several sequels; it helps considerably if you start by using the mindset of becoming a Series Author. A series author will establish a backstory upon which to base the anchor novel and its sequels. Often, building your backstory first, opens many new conceptual possibilities you may draw from.

Many excellent single issue books closed the possibility of a sequel by telling the whole story in their first novel. This does not mean to cut the reader short, each series book should contain all elements of a stand-alone novel, including proper climactic ending.

The key here is to build a complete story based upon a single Major Plot Point, your First Plot Point, making it the purpose of that first novel. Many novels contain several major plot points where the story drastically changes direction as it works toward the denouement; when at least half of those major plot points could have produced another book in the series.

When writing a novel, we often have the story in our head and tend to get some of it down on paper first, and then build a simple outline to see what elements might be lacking or misplaced. Then, as we are establishing our Scenes and Plot Points, hunting down the most significant change to develop our First Plot Point, we find we have several major plot points to choose from and may ask ourselves, which one of these is the First Plot Point.

The simple answer is; each of them can become a First Plot Point for a new novel in the series. Too many major plot points are confusing to a reader, and changing direction so many times within the same story is a turn-off to many readers. Your first anchor novel could easily be 5 to 12 books ahead of your originally planned climactic outline. Do not give away your whole storehouse to the first passerby, entice them to come back for seconds, thirds or more.

Necessary to gain reader following, you must first pique their interest to buy your first book, which brings us to that all important first few pages. If expecting an Agent or Publisher to consider your book, will that first page entice them enough to turn to page 75 or 80 to begin reading to see how well you handled your First Plot Point? Is it even there, where it belongs? If not, your manuscript will more than likely be relegated to the slush-pile or circular file.

The Grabber; that all important hook that captures your readers attention, must include several things and establish the; Who? What? Why? When? Where? and How? It must provide for a proper introduction for your protagonist and draw readers to truly care about this person and root for them to succeed. It must create a visual image in your readers mind that sets both the overall location as well as the specific locations or settings we find the protagonist in while establishing the mood and flavor of the story.

A great exercise is to describe and summarize your entire story in under 200 words, 1000 characters. Naming the conflict, options, choice, problems, goals and final achievements. If there is too much going on, this will let you know if your plot holds up and where the excess carries off to other possible books in the series. What is the First Plot Point? If you have more than one possibility, define it as another First Plot Point for your next in the series.

Sit down and write your macro-outline, study it, can it be broken down into micro-outlines. Does your story cover such a long time period, or contain several events that would warrant being told separately? The nice thing about a series is you can expound on those events and bring each to a climactic conclusion, with no loose ends dangling, yet leaving the reader to wonder what happens next; without leaving them a nasty cliffhanger, forcing them to buy your next book to discover what happens. Each book in a series leads to that most important book, your overall goal, the final denouement, but never leaves a reader of a single issue confused about what is going on or leaves them stranded without a conclusion to the specific episode.

You may find the below listing a little confusing, since it is truncated to become only a memory jogger to myself. However, I have changed some of the point names to web search-able names used by other authors in their blogs. For my own work I use the names found on my Novel Outline previously posted.


OUTLINE: Overall Series Plot Outline; topic covered in each book, First Plot Point for each.

OUTLINE: Topical Outline; the First Plot Point, Set-Up Scenes, all major Points.

Point: Set-Up Scenes; building the foundation for your First Plot Point.

First Plot Point: The exact point when everything changes; must be placed in novel at 20 to 25%.
There are No exceptions to this rule!!!!! It's usually between pages 75 and 100.
It is always what the story is about, that brings the reader to the conclusion.
The point of no return, where a major change takes place.

Point: The Grabber; An opening line or paragraph that lures the reader into wanting to learn more.

Point: Story Goal or Problem; what protagonist wants to achieve or solve in the story.

Point: Consequence; protagonist realizes what happens if the they cannot achieve their goal.
Also a way to avoid threats or dangers to their mission. Adds dramatic tension to story.

Point: Requirements; describes what must be accomplished to achieve the goal.
As the protagonists meets these requirements, they get closer to attaining their goal.
Readers look forward in excited anticipation to the success of the protagonist.

Point: Forewarnings; events that make the dangers more realistic.
Consequences can possibly happen before the protagonist meets each requirement.
Or reaches the story goal.
Have a character fail at some attempt, but have the failure turn out as a good thing.

Point: Costs; the protagonist must suffer in some way, pain, injury or loss.
This can take many forms; money, security, anything they love and want to keep.

Point: Dividends; apply to the characters in the story, small achievements unrelated to goal.
However, they would not have occurred if the protagonist was not working toward the goal.
What event did the protagonist cause in the characters life to play out differently.

Point: Prerequisites; what must happen for each requirement to be met, working toward goal.
What is needed by the protagonist in order to meet each requirement.

Point: Preconditions; like forewarnings, what conditions caused the forewarning.
What characters will make it more difficult for the story goal to be realized.
Use characters to impose conditions that make the goal harder to achieve.

Point: Achievement; how the loose ends all come together to an epic conclusion.
Make it surprising but keep it all connected to the storyline.
Another twist is to have the achievement, although attained, not be the best outcome.
Who? What? Why? When? Where? and How? The answers to these questions come first.
If you know where you’re going, it’s easier to get there.

Point: Possible endings; what is the intended outcome of your novel. Is it a happy or sad ending, or does it fall into both categories. A happy ending (called Comedy from the old school) is where the protagonist achieves their goal and it turns out to be a good thing. A sad ending (known as a Tragedy) is where the protagonist fails to reach his goal, and it's a bad thing. In a combination of the above, we find both a Tragi-Comedy and a Comi-Tragedy. In a T/C the protagonist misses their goal, but his failure turns out to be a good thing. In a C/T the protagonist succeeds in accomplishing his goal, but it turns out to be a bad thing.

Point: Summary; describe your entire novel in 200 words or 1000 characters.

Point: Keep the story moving; hold the reader in suspense, guessing what happens next.
End scenes with something surprising and a must know what happens next.

A question was posed about an author being to close to their work and overlooking some of the obvious mistakes. Many of us use grunt-readers, who go through our manuscript, usually more than once and make a report of things they find that didn't work out right, were confusing, something mentioned with no follow through or closure. Grunt-readers are not editors or professionals, just friends who are willing to spend the time to read your manuscript and make notations about areas they found difficult or didn't understand. Some do it because they enjoy reading works in progress, where they can offer input, others because they owe you a favor, and some for an extra couple of bucks to go to a movie. Some authors use lengthy questionnaire forms, that some readers find a little too hard to fill out or understand. These early readers are not doing so for blog type commentary, endorsements or storyline suggestions, merely if they understand or see errors. Professional editing comes much later.

Respectfully Submitted
Gary V. Deutschmann, Sr.



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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby kg » 26 Aug 2012, 12:18


I think you've written an excellent and compelling guide, Gary, and one which I believe I've instinctively followed while conceptualizing and planning my series, if not formally, in writing. Not being much of a believer in the immutability of 'rules', however, I do have a couple of questions and/or comments.

Kellemora wrote:In a typical full-length novel, a writer often uses over 150 minor plot points; often referring to these as scenes; 10 to 12 main defining plot points, and of course, the all so important First Plot Point, that define when everything changes and the story goes off in a new direction.

There are numerous web sites devoted to "Plot Points" that you can peruse for a better understanding of what Plot Points are and how to use them to improve your own writing skills. However, many were found greatly lacking in explanations of how to set up an Outline that includes each major and minor plot point.


As I stated above, at this point the outline for my series exists only in my head. In fact, the outline for the prequel that I have written existed solely in my head during its development and writing. I'm sure that's the reason I've found the editing process so onerous.

I've come to recognize that I'm not going to be able to use the same methodology in writing the novels in my core series. What I've conceptualized will be comprised of quite a number of separate novels...a "trilogy of trilogies," at this point...not amenable to the method I used to write "The Chronicles." The series will require me to use outlines, lest I lose the overall plot in the labyrinth of my convoluted mind.

Kellemora wrote:When writing with the intent and hopes of going viral and your book possibly spawning several sequels; it helps considerably if you start by using the mindset of becoming a Series Author. A series author will establish a backstory upon which to base the anchor novel and its sequels. Often, building your backstory first, opens many new conceptual possibilities you may draw from.


Which is what I think I've instinctually done, though not completely. I've merely 'documented' one point of history for the series, developing a couple of the important core concepts that form the basis of the story.

Kellemora wrote:Many excellent single issue books closed the possibility of a sequel by telling the whole story in their first novel. This does not mean to cut the reader short, each series book should contain all elements of a stand-alone novel, including proper climactic ending.

The key here is to build a complete story based upon a single Major Plot Point, your First Plot Point, making it the purpose of that first novel. Many novels contain several major plot points where the story drastically changes direction as it works toward the denouement; when at least half of those major plot points could have produced another book in the series.


Closing the possibility of a sequel is something I'm assiduously trying to avoid at all costs. I intend my story to be a series; there is no other way that I can present my concepts. In my extensive reading in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, I've found that many authors of single novel stories use this world (Earth) and its concepts - usually in the past - as the scene for their stories. That's quite convenient, as they have few extraneous concepts to explain to their readers.

My novel will not only be set in another world, but in another universe in the "multi-verse," not only requiring me to fully develop that alternate-reality world, but to develop the method of transport through which my main protagonist finds himself there. That requires more than one novel to achieve; in fact, that is one of the issues that will take the entire first novel in my series to address.

Not only am I writing with a series in mind, but with possible spin-offs, as well. There will be many potential stories in that world, and I intend to present those opportunities, not only for myself, but for other authors, should any be so-inspired.

Kellemora wrote:When writing a novel, we often have the story in our head and tend to get some of it down on paper first, (Where have I heard that concept before? :lol: ) and then build a simple outline to see what elements might be lacking or misplaced. Then, as we are establishing our Scenes and Plot Points, hunting down the most significant change to develop our First Plot Point, we find we have several major plot points to choose from and may ask ourselves, which one of these is the First Plot Point.

The simple answer is; each of them can become a First Plot Point for a new novel in the series. Too many major plot points are confusing to a reader, and changing direction so many times within the same story is a turn-off to many readers. Your first anchor novel could easily be 5 to 12 books ahead of your originally planned climactic outline. Do not give away your whole storehouse to the first passerby, entice them to come back for seconds, thirds or more.


I intend to have one or more global Plot Points that span most or all of the books in the series. I intend to present a situation (or situations) that slowly develop from a vague premonition and slowly developing set of circumstances to a climactic struggle and resolution...possibly two, when the first resolution fails to completely resolve the crisis, and it redevelops.

Kellemora wrote:Necessary to gain reader following, you must first pique their interest to buy your first book, which brings us to that all important first few pages. If expecting an Agent or Publisher to consider your book, will that first page entice them enough to turn to page 75 or 80 to begin reading to see how well you handled your First Plot Point? Is it even there, where it belongs? If not, your manuscript will more than likely be relegated to the slush-pile or circular file.


This statement, in addition to one below, is of concern to me. I'll address it below, though.

Kellemora wrote:The Grabber; that all important hook that captures your readers attention, must include several things and establish the; Who? What? Why? When? Where? and How? It must provide for a proper introduction for your protagonist and draw readers to truly care about this person and root for them to succeed. It must create a visual image in your readers mind that sets both the overall location as well as the specific locations or settings we find the protagonist in while establishing the mood and flavor of the story.


I'm very cognizant of this concept. I can only hope that what I have planned will be up to the task. A question, though...does this apply to the first chapter or the prologue? I have a rather unique concept I want to present in the prologue to the first book in the series...one that has little to do with the body of the novel, and will only be addressed again in the epilogue. It has to do with the method of transport I mentioned earlier.

Kellemora wrote:A great exercise is to describe and summarize your entire story in under 200 words, 1000 characters. Naming the conflict, options, choice, problems, goals and final achievements. If there is too much going on, this will let you know if your plot holds up and where the excess carries off to other possible books in the series. What is the First Plot Point? If you have more than one possibility, define it as another First Plot Point for your next in the series.


I hope that what you're suggesting is on the novel level, and not the entire series! "Under 200 words" would be next to impossible when describing the storyline of my entire series. I suppose it could be done, but WOW!

Kellemora wrote:Sit down and write your macro-outline, study it, can it be broken down into micro-outlines. Does your story cover such a long time period, or contain several events that would warrant being told separately? The nice thing about a series is you can expound on those events and bring each to a climactic conclusion, with no loose ends dangling, yet leaving the reader to wonder what happens next; without leaving them a nasty cliffhanger, forcing them to buy your next book to discover what happens. Each book in a series leads to that most important book, your overall goal, the final denouement, but never leaves a reader of a single issue confused about what is going on or leaves them stranded without a conclusion to the specific episode.


I seriously don't know how my concepts would be interpreted using those criteria. At the risk of a 'spoiler', the first novel in my series will be devoted to developing situations and events...both here and in the other world...leading up to the final event of my main protagonist making the journey to that other world. Other than throwing in a few minor details, that is where I intend to end it. The second novel will pick up the story from the point our hero finds himself in that other world, and will proceed from that point.

What do you think? Too much of a "nasty cliffhanger?" I'm inclined to write it that way, due to the amount of information I feel compelled to present, especially in those first two novels. That's why I intended my present novel to be read after those first two novels, at a minimum.

Now, to the main point of my post; the point which I mentioned above and concerns me the most:

Kellemora wrote:First Plot Point: The exact point when everything changes; must be placed in novel at 20 to 25%.
There are No exceptions to this rule!!!!! It's usually between pages 75 and 100.
It is always what the story is about, that brings the reader to the conclusion.
The point of no return, where a major change takes place.


What you've just stated concerns and confuses me. Though I've read your description of "slush pile" rejection above, doing this is not only not my concept of how my first novel should proceed, but nearly impossible for me to ascertain. I frankly don't know how long that novel will end up being, considering all the things and situations I need to develop up to its climax, so how am I to know where to include that "First Plot Point?"

OK, upon further consideration, I suppose I do have something that might be considered to be a "first plot point." It is a "chapter" I've written that describes the 'technology' that will take my protagonist on his journey. I suppose that could be considered a "point of no return" and a major change.

But as far as my protagonist is concerned, the major change will be his journey, which belongs squarely at the end of the novel, and as its conclusion. The 'technology' chapter will only be a major change to the readers; while my protagonist might know of the technology, he'll know nothing of the accident with that technology that takes him "elsewhere."

Kellemora wrote:Point: Story Goal or Problem; what protagonist wants to achieve or solve in the story.


Also a bit of a sticking point for me, but one in which I'm not inclined to disclose much detail about. Let us just say that my protagonist finds himself thrown into that world unknowingly and not particularly willingly. How he deals with that is left for further novels.

As for the rest of the Outline points, I intend to consider and utilize them, but I have one more comment to make:

Kellemora wrote:A question was posed about an author being to close to their work and overlooking some of the obvious mistakes. Many of us use grunt-readers, who go through our manuscript, usually more than once and make a report of things they find that didn't work out right, were confusing, something mentioned with no follow through or closure. Grunt-readers are not editors or professionals, just friends who are willing to spend the time to read your manuscript and make notations about areas they found difficult or didn't understand. Some do it because they enjoy reading works in progress, where they can offer input, others because they owe you a favor, and some for an extra couple of bucks to go to a movie. Some authors use lengthy questionnaire forms, that some readers find a little too hard to fill out or understand. These early readers are not doing so for blog type commentary, endorsements or storyline suggestions, merely if they understand or see errors. Professional editing comes much later.


I believe that I've more than utilized "grunt readers," probably a bit too early in the process. I intend to do this after I've finished editing the book, as well. I have several friends waiting in the wings to read the final version of the novel.

I'm going to tap one of my friends in particular. He is the Director of the Plaquemines Parish Library System. I approached him about my novel some time back, and as it turns out, he and his sons read SFF prolifically, and he was very interested to read the novel when I had it done. As a professional in "things literary," you can bet I'm going to tap him for a critique.

Isn't it amazing how one draws others to themselves, only to find that some time in the future, you find those friends to have or have attained skills and knowledge that's helpful in a current project? While I draw people that are knowledgeable during those projects, I sometimes find that others that I've known for a long time, and became friends with for completely different reasons, turn out to be more than they seemed at the time.

Thank you for this guide, Gary! I'll be checking back on it in the future.
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby Kellemora » 26 Aug 2012, 21:06

kg wrote:I think you've written an excellent and compelling guide, Gary, and one which I believe I've instinctively followed while conceptualizing and planning my series, if not formally, in writing. Not being much of a believer in the immutability of 'rules', however, I do have a couple of questions and/or comments.


Just because I know the rules, don't mean I can always follow them either, and sometimes they just don't work out right.

As I stated above, at this point the outline for my series exists only in my head. In fact, the outline for the prequel that I have written existed solely in my head during its development and writing. I'm sure that's the reason I've found the editing process so onerous.


Well, you'll be glad to know that an outline is truly never done! Things change each time you sit down to write, but like having your address book in alphabetical order, keeping your outline in Chronological Order, if that applies, does help considerably as to where you are at.

This plot outline was based on series novels, so some of the comments are made are in that light!

Which is what I think I've instinctually done, though not completely. I've merely 'documented' one point of history for the series, developing a couple of the important core concepts that form the basis of the story.


I don't like to do this without permission, but here is a small excerpt that explains much better than I can what the First Plot Point is:

It was written by Larry Brooks on August 29, 2009

Pop quiz: what’s the most important moment in your story?
When we first meet our dashing hero? Nope.
That sky-is-falling plot twist in the middle when all hope is lost? Nope.
When everything comes together, that visceral oh-my-god resolution just before the credits roll, with tears flowing, hormones raging and adrenalin pumping like beer at a sausage festival?
Nope again.

The following could change your writing life forever.
The most important moment in your story is when everything changes for the hero. When what the hero believes is her reality experiences a sudden shift. Suddenly there’s a new deal on the table that sends your hero down an altered, unexpected path. And, as part of that new deal, the reader gets a sense of what stands in the hero’s way.
That moment changes your story. And in doing so, it could be argued that this is when your story really begins. Everything that happened prior to it was just a set-up.
It’s called the First Plot Point. And you can’t mess with it.

For many writers this is the single most illuminating piece of writing wisdom they’ll ever hear. Because you can’t write an effective story until you accept and understand this at the very core of your gonna-be-a-huge-bestselling-superstar self.
In the story of your writing life, your First Plot Point may be right here. Right now, as you read this. Because if you haven’t wrapped your head around this principle, chances are you’ll never sell a story. But when you do, you’ll have immersed yourself into the realm of story architecture, and that may be precisely the thing that gets you published.
A sudden shift. A new deal on the table. A new path for you.
And the only thing that stands in your way is your willingness to engage and understand.
Timing isn’t optional.
Here’s shocking news for psychotically organic storytellers: you don’t get to say when that happens. There’s a narrow little window of expectation as defined by accepted story structure principles – the First Plot Point needs to happen at about the 20th to 25th percentile of the story. Right after you’ve set it all up.

Non-negotiable.
Too early and you’ve shortchanged your opportunity to do that.

I'm very cognizant of this concept. I can only hope that what I have planned will be up to the task. A question, though...does this apply to the first chapter or the prologue? I have a rather unique concept I want to present in the prologue to the first book in the series...one that has little to do with the body of the novel, and will only be addressed again in the epilogue. It has to do with the method of transport I mentioned earlier.


No, it does NOT go in the Prologue!

Jodie Renner answers that rather nicely!
"Your first paragraph and first page are absolutely critical! Not only do they need to hook your reader in quickly, set the tone for the rest of the book, and “show your stuff” in regards to your writing style, but the reader needs to know right away whose story it is and where and when it’s taking place, so they can get situated, then relax and start enjoying the story. If they have a lot of questions, they’re going to start getting frustrated and may put down your book by the end of the first page or two. Readers want to be able to get into a good story right away, not have to spend the first several pages—or more—trying to figure out what’s going on."

I hope that what you're suggesting is on the novel level, and not the entire series! "Under 200 words" would be next to impossible when describing the storyline of my entire series. I suppose it could be done, but WOW!


That was my whole point. If you can't do it because of too many plot points, you have more than one book there, not a single stand alone book.

I seriously don't know how my concepts would be interpreted using those criteria. At the risk of a 'spoiler', the first novel in my series will be devoted to developing situations and events...both here and in the other world...leading up to the final event of my main protagonist making the journey to that other world. Other than throwing in a few minor details, that is where I intend to end it. The second novel will pick up the story from the point our hero finds himself in that other world, and will proceed from that point.


Does the story you are conveying in book one come to a reasonable conclusion so the reader does not feel cheated, or feel forced they MUST buy the next book to understand the one they just read?

What do you think? Too much of a "nasty cliffhanger?" I'm inclined to write it that way, due to the amount of information I feel compelled to present, especially in those first two novels. That's why I intended my present novel to be read after those first two novels, at a minimum.


Most books leave a HOOK so the reader KNOWS there is MORE TO COME!
But has the PLOT for that first book come to a close?

I'm writing a series that spans some 175 years, my first book will only cover the events from 1828 to 1829, but will provide a history from 1807 to 1828 within the set-up part of the story. This first book will end when he meets the gal that will become his wife. Which just happens to be a major plot point, when everything changes again. However, that most important First Plot Point will be when the protagonist breaks away from his captors and sets out to start a new life on his own. That is the point when Everything Changes, from his work a day drudgery (almost like a slave) and he finds freedom in uncharted wilderness and the perils he meets out there. This book also is called a Tragi-Comedy, which means, he does not reach his intended goal, but the goal he does reach is a good thing. You'll have to read the next in the series to find out IF he marries the gal and what transpires during his married life 1830 to 1840. The year 1850 brings in more characters, and by the 1860s I will be leaving the Historical Series and moving into the Mystery Series. I also plan a Romance Series as a spin-off series for these works. What was never spoken of in the Historical Series.

What you've just stated concerns and confuses me. Though I've read your description of "slush pile" rejection above, doing this is not only not my concept of how my first novel should proceed, but nearly impossible for me to ascertain. I frankly don't know how long that novel will end up being, considering all the things and situations I need to develop up to its climax, so how am I to know where to include that "First Plot Point?"


I don't know if this will help or not! I also write Mysteries. In the process of writing a mystery, rather than working from the beginning to the end, I do it in reverse, I write from the end back to the beginning. For me, it's much easier this way!
Once I have established which plot point is truly the major turning point, to insure it comes out at the 22% to 25% point in my story. I may have to add more to the set-up pages preceding it. This is usually the easiest way to do this as you can add more Feelings that each character feels.
I like to use words that illicit a physical response from my readers!
Things that make them see, feel and even taste the flavor of the story.
I don't have to say it's raining, too bland! I merely mention the lights dancing in the raindrops on the windshield. Or if they pulled a pie from the oven, I don't have to describe in detail the ingredients of the pie to bore them to tears. I will mention a flavor they can smell and taste. The moment I came into the kitchen the aroma of cinnamon drenched apples filled the air. Not one of my better phrases, but it makes your mouth water and your brain think your nose just smelled it.

OK, upon further consideration, I suppose I do have something that might be considered to be a "first plot point." It is a "chapter" I've written that describes the 'technology' that will take my protagonist on his journey. I suppose that could be considered a "point of no return" and a major change.

If it is the major turning point in his career, lifestyle, where he goes off on an entirely new path than he was on previously, then yes, that could be the First Plot Point for that story.
If you have another life altering plot, save it for your next installment, book 2.

But as far as my protagonist is concerned, the major change will be his journey, which belongs squarely at the end of the novel, and as its conclusion. The 'technology' chapter will only be a major change to the readers; while my protagonist might know of the technology, he'll know nothing of the accident with that technology that takes him "elsewhere."


Where his technology takes him, becomes the Consequences, filled with Requirements, Forewarnings and all the other good stuff. The Middle of your story. The Ending should be Exciting, and it sounds like your story is just that.

Also a bit of a sticking point for me, but one in which I'm not inclined to disclose much detail about. Let us just say that my protagonist finds himself thrown into that world unknowingly and not particularly willingly. How he deals with that is left for further novels.


Sounds Great! I'm sure you know your stuff better than I do Glenn!

I'm actually only repeating what has been drilled into my head for 30+ years.

I'm sitting here chuckling because, just because I know what to do, don't mean I always do it right either!

TTUL
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby kg » 27 Aug 2012, 00:02


All-righty then!

Kellemora wrote:The most important moment in your story is when everything changes for the hero. When what the hero believes is her reality experiences a sudden shift. Suddenly there’s a new deal on the table that sends your hero down an altered, unexpected path. And, as part of that new deal, the reader gets a sense of what stands in the hero’s way.


All I can say is....Ack! That is not the way I've conceptualized the progression of my first novel.

Here’s shocking news for psychotically organic storytellers: you don’t get to say when that happens. There’s a narrow little window of expectation as defined by accepted story structure principles – the First Plot Point needs to happen at about the 20th to 25th percentile of the story. Right after you’ve set it all up.

Non-negotiable.
Too early and you’ve shortchanged your opportunity to do that.


Double-Ack!!

Do you realize that you:

  1. ...are performing the "yank the tablecloth from under the china" trick, except it's me on the tabletop?
  2. ...are standing next to my balloon, holding a hat pin, and grinning maniacally?

:thud:

"Your first paragraph and first page are absolutely critical! Not only do they need to hook your reader in quickly, set the tone for the rest of the book, and “show your stuff” in regards to your writing style, but the reader needs to know right away whose story it is and where and when it’s taking place, so they can get situated, then relax and start enjoying the story. If they have a lot of questions, they’re going to start getting frustrated and may put down your book by the end of the first page or two. Readers want to be able to get into a good story right away, not have to spend the first several pages—or more—trying to figure out what’s going on."


I have ideas on that, both for the first, and subsequent paragraphs. I think it will grab the readers' attentions and cause most of them to instantly empathize with the protagonist.

That was my whole point. If you can't do it because of too many plot points, you have more than one book there, not a single stand alone book.


That'll work, then, because I do plan on more than one book...several more.

Does the story you are conveying in book one come to a reasonable conclusion so the reader does not feel cheated, or feel forced they MUST buy the next book to understand the one they just read?


It does, and it doesn't. Sorry to be so cryptic, but I'm not sure how to answer that.

Most books leave a HOOK so the reader KNOWS there is MORE TO COME!
But has the PLOT for that first book come to a close?


I'm going to pull a "Bill Clinton" here, and say, "It depends on how you define, 'plot'. :lol:

What you've just stated concerns and confuses me. Though I've read your description of "slush pile" rejection above, doing this is not only not my concept of how my first novel should proceed, but nearly impossible for me to ascertain. I frankly don't know how long that novel will end up being, considering all the things and situations I need to develop up to its climax, so how am I to know where to include that "First Plot Point?"


I don't know if this will help or not! I also write Mysteries. In the process of writing a mystery, rather than working from the beginning to the end, I do it in reverse, I write from the end back to the beginning.


I don't think that would work for me. My thinking is too 'linear'. Perhaps if I outlined it first...but I don't think it would work.

I like to use words that illicit a physical response from my readers!
Things that make them see, feel and even taste the flavor of the story.


I like that as well, but I tend more to the emotional response. My style is to drag my readers from low and dark to light and humorous, and then back again. When my novel is completely finished, I'll send you a copy...you'll see what I'm talking about. I try to drag emotions up and down the scale, from deadly serious to light-hearted frivolity; from dark and hopeless to grandiose and triumphant.

Of course, considering the intent and content of this novel, I was forced to eschew too many descriptives. It's a history lesson, chronicling events from the viewpoint of the two protagonists, and as with all such historical chronicles, frivolities and minor, unimportant details are held to a minimum in favor of what is taught. I do take a little 'license' to hold interest, but not too much.

OK, upon further consideration, I suppose I do have something that might be considered to be a "first plot point." It is a "chapter" I've written that describes the 'technology' that will take my protagonist on his journey. I suppose that could be considered a "point of no return" and a major change.

If it is the major turning point in his career, lifestyle, where he goes off on an entirely new path than he was on previously, then yes, that could be the First Plot Point for that story.
If you have another life altering plot, save it for your next installment, book 2.


No, the main protagonist is completely unaware of it. I hadn't planned for the protagonist's life-changing event until the very end of the first novel.

But as far as my protagonist is concerned, the major change will be his journey, which belongs squarely at the end of the novel, and as its conclusion. The 'technology' chapter will only be a major change to the readers; while my protagonist might know of the technology, he'll know nothing of the accident with that technology that takes him "elsewhere."


Where his technology takes him, becomes the Consequences, filled with Requirements, Forewarnings and all the other good stuff. The Middle of your story. The Ending should be Exciting, and it sounds like your story is just that.


By now, you've realized your perceptions were wrong. But rather than describe what I have in mind here, I think a dedicated email is more appropriate. It's a bit involved (and possibly undo-able, short of chopping that portion of the series to shreds).

Also a bit of a sticking point for me, but one in which I'm not inclined to disclose much detail about. Let us just say that my protagonist finds himself thrown into that world unknowingly and not particularly willingly. How he deals with that is left for further novels.


Sounds Great! I'm sure you know your stuff better than I do Glenn!


I do, but whether it's workable has become the question. Unless this first novel goes viral, Smashwords may be my only venue.

I'm actually only repeating what has been drilled into my head for 30+ years.

I'm sitting here chuckling because, just because I know what to do, don't mean I always do it right either!


LOL! Well, that gives me some small amount of hope, anyway! :lol:

I will pop you an email outlining what I have in mind as far as the first novel in the series proper. I think (or thought) that it's a good and unique concept for a novel, but certainly would like your input and thoughts on it. I need to know whether I'm wasting my time, or if I should go with it and see what transpires.

Now as to my present novel:

I seem to have stumbled blindly into the correct formula with The Chronicles. While there are several "life-changing" events for both protagonists - dragon and human - the one major one...the point of the whole book, occurs in almost exactly the right place.

From the beginning of writing this novel, I kept a running word count. After a while of keeping track of the word count in a text document, I got tired of recalculating every time I changed the word count through editing, so I programmed a spreadsheet to do it for me, all nice and automatic.

...the First Plot Point needs to happen at about the 20th to 25th percentile of the story.


In light of this new information, I pulled up my word count and did the math. The major "life-changing" event (and the main point of the whole novel) occurs toward the end of the 3rd chapter...approximately 21.5% of the way through the novel (the end of the novel is around 21.75%). How fortuitous is that?! :P

I'll send you an email with my tentative plans on the way I plan(ned) to structure my first novel, but not tonight. I've got to work tomorrow, and I need to get to bed...NOW! If this novel turns out to be popular, perhaps I might be forgiven a little when I start writing on the series proper. Maybe not, but we'll see what you think.

Until later...
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby Kellemora » 27 Aug 2012, 11:18

Hi Glenn

Remember, I wrote Romance for several years, then Mystery, Crime and Fiction; not much in the way of Sci-Fi, so the rules may be different, although I doubt by much.

It probably took me about 6 to 8 years before I realized what I was calling my First Plot Point was in error. I always thought it was the most major event that took place in my story, and that usually happened near the end in my stories.
Last night I posted some quotes from other authors who explain this much better than I can.
Almost everything I thought was probably the First Plot Point was a Big No It's Not!
Turns out, a major event is not; one can have several major events take place, that cause the story to change directions many times.

Not all Best Sellers go by the Rules! Probably WHY some of them Became best sellers!
As far as I'm concerned, if a book captures the readers attention, and keeps them turning those pages, it's a success.

But by the same token, I know how many books Publishers must review. They don't have the time to read much, so they look at the first few pages, then flip to the 20% mark and start looking for that First Plot Point. Was it big enough for them to see the drama, stress, anxiety, emotions, etc. ad infinitum. If so, they will have a editor read the whole book.

Of the many books I have ghost written, the one I felt was one of my very best works; I was invited to sit-in on the editors review. Boy did I have a Rude Awakening! Those editors tore that book apart, line after line! I was only an observer, was not allowed to say a single word, just listen in as they ripped it to shreds and put it back together again. I actually wanted to hide in the corner and pull a waste basket over my head.
When it was all over, the chief came over and said to me; you did good, this is one of your best works yet! I just looked at him stunned. I could just imagine what happened in this room with my first several books they published. Probably why I never recognized very many of my first ones in print, hi hi.....

But times are changing, often considerably! So maybe the rules are changing too!

Not trying to cut you short here, I've had three phone calls and two personal interruptions, while writing this.
And now I must get back to work!

TTUL
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby Ice.Maiden » 12 Sep 2012, 10:38

:o

I can't find my post to you about plot points!
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby Kellemora » 13 Sep 2012, 12:19

I looked around for it Icey and didn't find it either!
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby kg » 13 Sep 2012, 13:23


I did. It was posted in Writer's Corner, and you appear to have already answered it.
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Re: Plot Outlining

Postby Ice.Maiden » 13 Sep 2012, 16:19

Thanks Glenn - I found it eventually!
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