PLOTTING KNOWHOW So you think you can't plot?

For the first of her new Plotting KnowHow series, K. L. Kettle started by taking a quick poll about plotting on Twitter.

I ran a quick poll on Twitter and, of the number of writers responding, 36% said plotting a story made their brain freeze. Even with a myriad of techniques, books, courses and years of writing under my belt I’d agree that a blank page can be terrifying. But, there’s hope: 41% of writers had a way forward. My hope is that with this article, and the few that follow, that those panicked by plot will shift into the ‘I know where to start’ pile.

Whether you’re writing a synopsis, full first draft or in edits here are some rules/questions to help – and yes, I’ve listed them in priority order!

Trust yourself

You’d be surprised how late in a lot of critical writing-theory books the sections on plot come. John Truby in The Anatomy of Story states plot is ‘most underestimated’. In some theory books it’s omitted altogether. I’d argue it’s not because it’s not important, but because everyone can plot a story because we are flooded by story from the cradle, in nature and mathematics, on television, social media and advertisements.

“Stories emerge from some place in the human mind which functions autonomously, independent of any storyteller’s conscious control." Christopher Brooker, Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories.

So guess what, you know what you’re doing – start.

If not by just diving in, creating a blurb, or a synopsis, then move to question 2..

Start with questions:

* Character: Is there a simple choice for your character? What choice do they make and why?

* Trouble: What is the situation and what makes it unstable?

* Movement: How does the choice make your character and situation move or change?

* Heart: What is the most simple expression of the story you are telling, the one line ‘problem’ to solve – and do the choices, situation and trouble support that story.

If in doubt, read!

* Read theory books (Here’s a link to a Pinterest board with links to some key books).

* Read critically ‘like a writer’ (a book you love, a book that didn’t work for you).

* Read/write outside of your story – a poem, short story, or flash – even an article! - something that the questions above apply to, but something short to challenge the patterns in your mind.

Featured image credit:


K.L.Kettle's debut YA novel The Boy I Am will be published by Stripes Publishing in 2020 

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