Lay Out the Bones
I say in my writing workshops that the plot of a story is the skeleton--the bones without the details. The plot keeps the writer on track. Some writers claim that they don't plot, but they probably do, even if it's not down on paper. They have at least a general idea of where they're going. If a writer doesn't know where she's going, how will she know when she gets there?
Some writers make a formal outline, the kind you learn to do in English class. Others use a type of outline called webbing. I know writers who simply list the book's chapters and tell what main event happens in each. Experiment and find out what works best for you. Keep it as simple as possible.
Mark the High Points
Somewhere early in your story, plot an inciting incident, also called a catalyst. This event launches your main character (protagonist) on
his adventure. It's an event that changes everything. Life is normal. Then...BANG! Something happens. Does a parent
die? Does the MC discover a caged tiger in the woods? Perhaps he finds a peculiar square egg. Maybe the MC's family decides
to become Amish. The action of the story will in some way reflect back, or be the result of, this incident.
Considering the inciting incident, what does your protagonist want more than anything in the world? He may desire several things, but what's the biggie--the one he's willing to take risks for? Once you know that, the story becomes a focused quest Who or what is working against this goal? Is it a person or a group of people? Or is it an internal conflict, something inside himself that keeps saying, "You can't do it. You're not smart enough. You're not strong enough, You're not popular enough. You're not [fill in the blank] enough!" The conflict may also come from nature or some fantastical being.
At some point very near the end of your story, the MC will reach the climax, the high point of the plot, that spot where it's do or die, where he must overcome the big problem--the source of the main conflict--against all odds. Think of your plot as a mountain. The climax is the tip-top of that mountain. But prior to reaching that point, other problems occur at strategic spots up the incline, each one a little worse that the last. I know. You want to protect your protagonist. You don't want to see him get hurt. As one writer told me early in my fiction writing journey, "You've got to beat up your darlings." If nothing bad, hurtful, or disappointing ever happens to him, you don't have much of a story. He must overcome.
Following the climax is the descending action and resolution. Loose ends are tidied up. As the writer, you get to decide whether or not the protagonist fully reaches his main goal. It's okay to leave the reader wondering or speculating based on the information you've given. Readers' interest begins to wane after the climax, so don't drag out the last part. Leave them wishing the story were longer.
Any questions or comments? As always, I love to hear from you.
Because of Christ,