Monday, June 13, 2011

Plot Development

A lot of you may already know about plot development. However, I would like to share with you some new pointers I learned from my writing teacher and poet, Ilona Martonfi, founder of the Yellow Door and the literary events at the Visual Arts Centre. She's teaching a workshop called "Start Writing Your Book" and we started with a great exercise on plot.

She said that every character wants something. This "wanting" is the basis of plot. As opposed to life, plot has an ordered structure, continuity, and careful selection of relevant and discarding of non-relevant information. For instance, characters may want:
  • to escape
  • to retrieve something
  • to stop something
  • to win something
In a story arc, the character moves from one position, meets challenges, hits a seemingly unsolvable crisis, and resolves to a changed position through the storyline. This may be a fall from grace (which is often a tragedy), a hero's journey, or simply how a character confronts and overcomes challenges, often finding new strengths. A short story usually has one arc. A novel may have multiple arcs.

This pointers have helped me save some stories that needed editing. Now I know why: my character needed something...and this was lacking.

Do you usually pay attention to your characters' needs?

So now that you have some pointers on how to edit your wonderful short story, I invite you to be daring and enter your story in the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition Good luck to all of you!


  1. A character in need and in constant conflict is so important to a story! Yay!! Thanks for the link to the short story competition!!! Are you entering?? Good luck!!! Take care x

  2. My novel has multiple arcs but they aren't huge. Is that a bad thing?

  3. Nice post, Claudia. I usually bear this in mind, but it's one thing knowing the theory and another practising it. That's why it's always nice being reminded of these things.

  4. Hi Jennifer,
    I'm still thinking about entering the contest. I entered two stories back in 2007 & 2008 but in hindsight, I should have never submitted those stories. They were so amateurish and in desperate need of editing :(

    Hi Alleged,
    No, I don't think is a bad thing at all. Just keep in mind important guidelines such as the progression of consequential events, involving the characters who change as a result of those events. Each event must lead toward resolution of the conflict, reveal more about the characters, and relate to the premise.
    Hope I've answered your question :)

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks! Believe me, I need to be reminded because I get caught in the web of my own story and forget about applying these rules :(

  5. "Every character wants something." How true. Never thought of that.

    Hope you do enter the contest. Good luck in advance!

  6. I LOVE it when someone puts together a diagram like this. I've got several different types in my conference notes. I'm sure they'll come in very handy in the near future. :)

  7. Hi Chris,
    I know! I learned that not long ago. You always learn something new ;)

    Hi Michelle,
    I am visual so diagrams help me a great deal ;)