How to Develop a Basic Story Plot

People often say that inside all of us is a novel waiting to be released onto paper, and if you fancy having a go then here is a quick article designed to get you going.

Hopefully you've already had that amazing moment when an exciting idea for a story suddenly takes hold. Try if you can and imagine it as a tiny seed. Yes, you've got a great idea but you're going to have to do a lot more if you want it to grow. And it starts with mapping out a basic plot. This doesn't have to be set in stone, but you need to have a rough idea of where you're going when you set out on your own voyage of literary discovery.

Carry on reading for my tips on the basic eight point plot. This has been adapted from the utterly amazing book by Nigel Watts - Writing a Novel and Getting Published. This book is essential reading for all writers and it is a book I turn to time and time again.

I will also be illustrating these points with a well known fairy tale; Hansel & Gretal.

1.) Once upon a time........

This is also known as the stasis, the starting point of your story. This sounds like a simple concept but how do you decide what the starting point is? Surely the starting point is technically when your lead character has been born, but I would suggest to introduce the starting point as close as you can to the next plot development.

Example -Once upon a time there was a woodcutter who lived in the woods with his wife and his two children; Hansel and Gretal. Everything at this point is happy and harmonious.

2.) The Big Bang moment....

This is the trigger moment where something unexpected happens to our character, it can be a happy surprise or more often than not something so terrible it plunges our character into a spiral of despair! This is the opportunity to really pull in your readers and grab their full attention. Hopefully they will then want to read the rest of your story to find out how the character resolves their problem.

Example - They were very poor and there wasn't enough food to go round so the wife forced the woodcutter to take his children deep into the woods and leave them there to die. This is the trigger moment for Hansel and Gretal and the reader at this point will care enough to want to read on to find out how they deal with their predicament.

3.)  The Quest....

At this stage your character is now triggered into pursuing a quest as a consequence of the trigger in an attempt to regain the status quo balance.

Example - The children upon realising what has happened try to find their way back home. This is their quest, their only chance of survival. If they didn't go on this quest they would simply die and the story would end.

4.) Surprise!

Similarly to the big bang moment something else unexpected occurs. Again, this can be good or bad, but it must be crucial for the plot to develop further and move the story forwards. This is where you can build up suspense and intrigue especially if the surprise is wholly unexpected.

Example - The children find a cottage made out of sweets and being very hungry to start to eat as much as they can. This is completely unexpected and at first appears to be a very happy surprise as there was no food at home which is why they were left in the woods. It seems all their problems are over.

5.) Dilemma time....

Due to the impact of the surprise moment the lead character now has to make a critical choice which will have far reaching consequences. A really good story will have a very hard dilemma such as going with what the heart wants rather than what is sensible.

Example - The cottage is owned by a witch who invites them in, and the children decide to take up her hospitality. The children decide to enter the house where they are held against their will, if they had refused entry they could have gone home and again the story would be concluded.

6.) Consequence......

At this stage the character has faced a difficult dilemma and they've made a difficult choice. Now it's time to face the consequences of their decisions or actions

Example - But the witch is a wicked witch and traps Hansel and fattens him up so she can eat him, whilst Gretal is forced under the witch's power. Unfortunately their choice to enter the witch's house has landed them in even more trouble, by now the reader will be wondering if and how they might be able to escape or be rescued.

7. Uh oh.......

At this stage your character is close to finishing their quest but just as things are starting to go smoothly, there's a spanner in the works which needs to be resolved.

Example - Soon Hansel has been fattened up by the witch and she starts a fire in which to roast him in. If the witch eats the children then the story will be concluded, it appears all is lost and there is no way the characters will now survive.

8. The grand finale........

This is where the story comes to it's conclusion and a new status quo has been created. Maybe everything is back to normal and the character can resume once more with their normal every day life.

Example - Gretal tricks the witch into the fire and is burned to death, she then rescues her brother Hansel and they find their way home. Their wicked stepmother is dead and there father is overjoyed to have them back and they all live happily ever after. The issue is resolved when the witch dies and every goes back to normal.

I hope this helps! :)

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  1. Great blog post! You made plotting simple with Hansel and Gretal's story! Thanks!

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