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How to Plot a Novel

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2019 by Dawn Ross

Plot Diagram

I’ve had stories in my head for years. But writing them down into story form has been a challenge. It wasn’t enough for me to simply share the life of a character. I had to find a way to make the events follow a pattern of rising action, climax, and conclusion. There are many ways to do this. The way to plot a novel that I found to be the most helpful when I wrote book three of my sci-fi series during NaNoWriMo 2019 is as follows:

1. Ordinary World – This is the introduction of your main character in their normal world. You also want to show what their goals and motivations are, as well as what is at stake if they fail. Don’t dwell too much on the ordinary world. Otherwise, you will have too much boring information. Only the bare bones of your main character’s setting and backstory should be introduced here. Other important elements can be brought in later in the story as they come up.

For my first book, the ordinary world is where Commander Hapker is wanting to prove himself capable of a job in space but is failing badly so far. His goal is to get his new captain to accept him as the second-in-command on a permanent basis. His motivation is to do what his father said he was incapable of doing. If he fails, he will return home to a life he doesn’t want and face the I-told-you-so attitudes of his parents.

2. Inciting Incident – This is where something changes. It introduces a problem that creates conflict for your main character. The inciting incident should happen very close to the beginning of your story.

For my first book, this happened at the end of the first chapter when an enemy ship crash lands on a planet in the territory that Commander Hapker is assigned to.

3. First Plot Point – This is where the conflict escalates for the first time. It’s the point where the character has no choice but to face the challenge.

In my first book, this is where Commander Hapker leads a team to the planet’s surface to check to see if any of the enemy occupants of the crashed ship survived.

4. First Pinch Point – This is where the main character is discovering the depth of the challenge they face. New things are discovered. The tensions rise. It is also where the first major interaction with the antagonist takes place.

In chapter two of my first book, Commander Hapker finds that one of the survivors is a ten-year-old warrior who has just killed four people and is ready to kill more if necessary.

5. Escalating Conflict – Depending on the length of your story, you can have multiple events that each escalate the story. The depth of what your main character faces becomes more and more apparent.

In my book, the plot escalates when Commander Hapker is assigned to watch over the hostile ten-year-old warrior. In my case, this could almost be considered part of the first pinch point.

6. Midpoint – The main character continues to face new challenges. They are on the defense, mostly reacting to the situations that arise. But then something happens to shift them into being proactive.

I’m not going to tell you what that was in my first book. You will just have to read it for yourself when it comes out in 2020. 😊

7. Second Pinch Point – Just when things are going well for your main character, there is another confrontation with the antagonist that makes things much worse than it was before. It is the herald of your climax.

8. Second Plot Point – This is where the main character is at their lowest. The battle is lost and they have no hope of it getting better. They are ready to give up. But something forces them to change their mind and regain hope. That something could be internal—a memory perhaps. Or it could be external—such as encouragement from a friend or the discovery of an object that will help them.

9. Final Battle – The main character uses his newfound hope to battle the antagonist in one final and enormous effort. This is the apex of your story and should be the most intense. There should be a back-and-forth battle where the main character is winning, then losing, then winning again at the last moment.

10. Return to the Ordinary World – This is the conclusion of your story. The main character has won. They return to their ordinary world but as a changed person.

When I first wrote book one, I did not follow this format very well. My first chapter started with action, which didn’t help the reader begin a relationship with the main character. I didn’t do a good job of introducing the main character’s goals and motivations. And without proper goals and motivations, the main character seemed to have no stakes in what was happening in the story. They could fail or not and it wouldn’t matter. Also, my story escalated well enough in the middle but flagged at the end. This was because I made the final battle too easy.

Save yourself the trouble of rewriting your story several times (like I did), by following this basic plot outline. Your story will come out better because of it, and people won’t be able to put it down.

Building the Plot for Kavakian Empire: First Encounter

Posted in The Dragon Spawn Chronicles with tags , , , on October 18, 2014 by Dawn Ross

My main intent of writing Part One – First Encounter of the Kavakian Empire is to introduce the primary characters. However, the story still has to have a plot, otherwise it is pointless to read. To define the plot, I need to determine the goals of influential characters. The plot arises when those goals clash. Let me review the goals here. The goals of each character are listed in the order of importance.

Jori’s Goals

  • Make sure his brother Terk lives.
  • Get back home to Tredon safely. (You may think to stay safe, Jori should not have told the Odyssey crew that he and Terk were the Kavakian princes. But you will find out later why he did tell them.)
  • Appease his father (more on this in future chapters).
  • Keep their real mission secret.

Captain Robert Arden’s Goals

  • Avoid war with the Tredons.
  • Get Jori and Terk home safe as promised.
  • Make sure Jori and Terk are not a security risk.
  • Verify the Grapnes’ intent and determine if there is any truth to their claims.
  • Determine if the Tredons had a secret mission.
  • Make a good impression on Jori and Terk in hopes of future dealings.

Commander J.T.’s Goals

  • Make friends with Jori so that their time together is not unpleasant.
  • Make friends with Jori in order to find out if Tredons had a secret mission.
  • Keep Jori from being a security risk.
  • Keep Jori’s identity a secret from other crew members.

Lieutenant-Commander Bracht’s Goals

  • Keep Jori and Terk from being a security risk.

Lieutenant Calloway’s Goals

  • Revenge and/or sabotage against Jori and Terk.
  • Keep Jori and Terk from being a security risk.

Core Alliance’s Goals

  • Take Jori and Terk into custody. (Intent not clear.)

With these goals in mind, where do they clash? The first one you might notice is that Jori wants to appease his father somehow. After all, their mission is nearly a complete disaster. He and his brother lost their crew, their ship, and their cargo. All they have left is information for their father, but that will hardy be enough to make up for their failure. So what will he do? Will his choices clash against the other characters’ goals of preventing him from being a security risk?

Jori also has a secret to keep. How far will other characters in this story go to find out this secret?

Another area where the goals clash is between Captain Arden and the Core Alliance. The captain has promised not to allow any harm to come to Jori and Terk, promised not to take them prisoners, and has promised to get them home safe. The Core Alliance, however, may have something else in mind for Jori and Terk.

Lt. Commander Bracht is obviously an antagonist of sorts, but the real antagonist in this story is Lt. Calloway. He will do his duty well enough to keep from getting into trouble. But if he can get away with doing something against Jori and Terk, he will do it in a heartbeat. His goals clash with Jori’s goals as well as with the captain’s goals.

The main plot of this story concerns the potential for war between two enemies. While it is obvious that Captain Arden wants to avoid war, we are not yet sure if Jori is interested in the same thing. So far, he is cooperating. But what will happen if his brother dies? Part One can end in two different ways. It could point towards a potential for peace between the Core Allliance and the Kavakian Empire. Or it could end in disaster with the Kavakian Empire being an even greater enemy threat to the Core Alliance. Keep reading the Kavakian Empire to find out more.