How to Write a Plot Line: Outlining 101
Welcome back to #WritingWednesdays!
I recently posted about How to Brainstorm, a necessary first step to the outlining process, so be sure to check that out, if you haven’t already. I said that I would be creating an Outlining 101 series to go in depth about each step of the outlining process, so here I am again with part two of that series where I’ll be teaching you how to write a plot line from your book idea.
Alright, so you have your brainstorming done. That means you have a rough idea of the main characters you want, when and where the story is taking place, and an idea of the direction and genre you want to take with the story.
Because all the steps of outlining can overlap and blend together at times, in my brainstorming post, I actually covered one of the steps of the plot line process, but I will elaborate on this step and take it even further.
Developing your plot line is an integral part of the outlining process that should be done early on because it would be really hard to develop the story if you tried to go along without this phase.
Before we get started, there’s one more thing I need to mention.
I’m sure many of you have heard about creating your story using the triangle plot diagram. AKA, the Freytag’s Pyramid.
This diagram covers all the main components of a plot line. Starting the story with the exposition, going into the inciting incident, then the rising action leading to the climax. After the climax, you would determine the falling action and then wrap everything up in the resolution of the story.
Although following this diagram is a great starting point for beginners, that plot diagram should really look something more like this, with little triangles within the larger triangle, creating a sort of triangle inception diagram.
This is because, in order to write a really exciting book, there needs to be variation within the entire book. Basically looking like rising, then a climax, then falling, then rising, then a climax, then falling, over and over again with these little climaxes being driving forces for the protagonist.
Looking at it like this, writing a plot line can sound really daunting, so I’m going to tell you what I do to develop the plot line, keeping in mind this triangle inception concept.
Step 1: The One Sentence Climaxes
We’re skipping all that rising and falling actions right now and starting with the exciting parts. Here you’ll be coming up with all of your little climaxes within that triangle inception concept. Which, if you’ve read How to Brainstorm, are the “What’s” of the outline. Each one only being about a sentence long.
Usually, the climax of the story is the point when the protagonist finally wins against the antagonist. But the little triangles won’t be as positive. You can definitely throw in some little victories for the hero, but for the most part, these climaxes should be negatively impacting the hero because an easy battle to win is boring to read. These climaxes should drive the protagonist to continue this battle no matter the hardships.
You can create a motivation for revenge by killing the hero’s best friend. Or incite fear into their hearts by destroying their hometown. Or maybe make the heroes doubt themselves because they come out of a battle broken and bloody.
These are the scenes that drive the plot line forward because anger, doubt, and death are much stronger motivations than happiness, pride, and survival.
Step 2: The Little Rises
Now that we have all the little climaxes, we can start to develop the little rises in action that lead to each of those climaxes. These are comprised of the dialogue and setting descriptors that will ultimately lead to those climactic scenes.
For example, the rising action of a battle scene would be the descriptions of the battleground ahead and the planning taking place between the protagonists and other supporting characters.
Step two of finding the little rises blends in with….
Step 3: The Large Rises
The large rises are part of that larger triangle and overarching plot line.
Going back to that climactic battle scene, if you’re planning on killing off the hero’s best friend, then you need to build up that character from the beginning of the book until now. You need to get your reader to develop a connection with the character so that when they die, not only will it make the anger of the hero more believable, but it will also connect your reader with the hero on a whole other level because now your reader will feel the same emotions as them. Thus motivating them to keep reading to see what happens.
Step 4: The Little Falls
These are the scenes after those little climaxes that showcase the emotions of the protagonist.
Using the battle scene again, after the best friend dies, the hero’s immediate reaction would be sadness and grief, maybe even denial. Which would transition into frustration and anger, thus creating a new motivation of revenge for the hero which would then transition into rising action once again.
Step 5: The Ultimate Climax
It’s now time for you to develop your overarching plot line’s climax. The climax of the larger triangle in the triangle inception diagram.
Remember, each little climax should grow in drama and intricacy leading into the final climax when the protagonist ultimately comes face to face with the leader of all the evil death and destruction that’s plagued the plot line so far. And where every little and large rise in action finally converges, creating the final battle and victory over the antagonist.
Step 6: Resolution
We’re almost done with your plot line!
Now that you have your ultimate climax, you need to wrap up your overarching plot line with a bit of falling action leading to the resolution of the story.
You would approach the falling action the same way you did in the little falls earlier but now, the emotions will be more positive because the hero finally defeated the villain for good…. Or did he? Decide here whether you want to end your book with a true resolution to the story. Or end it with a suspenseful cliffhanger that will lead into a sequel.
Congratulations! You now have your entire plot line created. But this isn’t the end of your outline though. It’s still just the beginning. So stay tuned for part three of my Outlining 101 series.
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