Five Ways to Think of Plot

Today’s post came from a talk delivered by Abigail Samoun, Project Editor for Tricycle Press (an imprint for Random House). She talked about plot, giving use five distinct things to think about. Personally, I loved this.

  1. Create Expectations – Use the plot to create the movement in the story. This movement creates expectations. The reader expects to be taken somewhere within the story. The better at creating expectations, the better the tension.  Abigail’s advice: Don’t betray the reader – take them somewhere.
  2. Use a Familiar Framework or Structure – this is where setting comes into play. Even in the most outrageous world building, there should be something familiar to the reader. Something comforting. That sense of familiarity can come within the structure itself, much as I alluded to in yesterday’s post.
  3. The Rule of Threes, or Three Up and Three Down – Building on using a familiar structure, is the rule of three’s. This is a very common literary tool. In this instance it is used in the following way – conflict presented, solutions offered, three attempts to solve the problem are made (all fail), the three attempts are revisited and a resolution is offered. This structure works particularly well with picture books, and MG. Variations can be found in all literature.
  4. You are the Readers WORST Enemy – this is my personal fav in the list. You, as the writer, are plotting AGAINST the reader – manipulating their emotions, leading them down dangerous paths. Abigail reminded us that it is by torturing the characters and making them getting into deeper and deeper trouble that you create the greatest tension.
  5. Keep ’em Waiting – I love this one too. Good storytelling means you are a master at manipulating the emotional tension of the story. You, and you alone, create anticipation in the story. Don’t give everything away too early. Make the reader work for it a little. Don’t confuse them, but make them work. Abigail used the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds, as an example of this. I mean, really, can you get better tension than that film!

With this list in mind, I am rereading A BEAUTIFUL MESS (the renamed Lacrimosa), making sure I have woven the story I intended.

What about you guys? Any thoughts on this?

Tomorrow we are going trough MS Bootcamp! Be sure to come on by!

17 thoughts on “Five Ways to Think of Plot

  1. Christine – great post! Loved the part especially about creating expectation; Ms. Samoun’s right, it’s a nifty method of ensuring forward momentum. When I submit my chapters to my critique group, they’re always commenting on how I raise questions throughout, so they want to keep flipping pages to find the answers in later chapters. What I wish I were better at is tossing in some decent red herrings to throw readers off track – but in a good way, not a false way. It’s hard! Hurm…

  2. Okay, I so totally need to print out this week’s posts! Feeling the need to revise again, based on these tips. It’d be wiser to let it sit and wait for beta feedback though.

    Right?!😉

    Keep it coming, Christine. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

  3. Good points! I did want to comment on the Rule of Threes, because the tales I’m more familiar with use it in a different form. In fairy tales, the first two attempts fail, but the third attempt using a different strategy succeeds. For instance, in “The Three Little Pigs,” the first two pigs use flimsy materials to build their homes, so the wolf blows their houses down. The third pig prevails by building his home out of brick, something solid.

  4. Lua

    “You are the Readers WORST Enemy” This is my fav one too!
    I really get irritated if I feel the writer there, while I’m reading a book, manipulating me into thinking or feeling whatever it is that he/she wants me to think or feel… So I always try and keep that in mind while I write.
    Thank you for the insightful post and the great advice Christine🙂

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