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What? Plot explained

Updated on August 8, 2012
Free image courtesy of zirconicusso and
Free image courtesy of zirconicusso and | Source

In the last article, we discussed characterization (WHO?). Now that we know who our story is to be about, we now have to determine the WHAT factor.

The WHAT factor determines where our story is headed. It is the final destination for our road map; the story board of what we wish to occur between the beginning and the end; it is the part of the conversation during a re-telling of an awesome night on the town that starts with: "Well what happened was...."

When I am creating my plot, I start at the end. If you don't know your destination, you'll never reach it. Here I try to figure out what I want my character to have achieved by the end of my story. This can be either plot related, whereby the mystery is solved and the charter remains the same; or, it can show a growth in the charter with my world staying the same; or, it can be that both the character and the world has changed.

Here are five tips for determining the WHAT factor:

1. Action!
What is the "explosion" that starts your story? Of course, this does not have to be an explosion but it is the triggering event. What makes the story worth being told? Did someone go missing? Did someone get too drunk? Did someone find their match on a dating site? The possibilities are endless, but this is the catalyst for your story.

2. Entree please!
People love appetizers and desserts, but the entree can sometimes be overlooked. In storytelling this is known as the dreaded middle, and it will show where you haven't asked enough of the WHATs. Here you want to continue your action; make the situation even worse for your character. I once heard during a conference that you want your character to be stuck in a tree and you're still throwing rocks at him. Don't make it easy for your character to overcome; make it just difficult enough for your reader to wonder: how the hell is she going to get out of that.

3. More please
Yes, there is nothing like the final moments before that glorious climax. The pressure is building and building and then... It's time for dessert. Your reader has followed the twists and turns of your story an now it's time to give them some sort of resolution; give them something to let them know it was worth their time. Now, I believe that even in a series, there should still be a conclusion to the basic premise as decided and depicted at the beginning of he story - not everything needs to be wrapped up nicely in a bright pink bow, but your reader should feel that the book didn't just end and disappear into the dark night.

4. Preview - if you are creating a series, make sure to give your readers a preview of what is to come (again with action); just to give them a taste of your next story.

5. How high to go?
Of course, the greatest WHAT is to make sure your story arch is continuing to rise (action and reaction). For everything we do in life there is a consequence. Think about your story arch being the silhouette of a lovely stiletto (or high mountain peak). The higher the heel, the better.

When it comes to WHAT, don't be afraid to ask. The more you do, the deeper your story will be and your readers will be wanting more.So, keep asking, " And what happened next?"

Tina Glasneck is the author of THOU SHALL NOT. She also authors craft articles and short stories. With a theological and criminal background, Tina enjoys creating heroes with bite, villains with motives and a plot with an impeccable pace. She is currently working on her follow up novel, Angels Cry.


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