Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Five Basic Plot Elements

Plot is one of those words that even after writing for six years I still feel I don't truly understand. And so I thank Donald Maass for his very simple definition of plot: "Plot is the organization of a story: its events and their sequences."

Whew, I can breath easier now that I see Maass's definition resembles what I thought all along. Why couldn't all the stars of writing define it so easily!! But I digress. According to Maass there are five basic plot elements, and here they are:

A story must have "a sympathetic character, one whom we know in some detail." Your readers need to care deeply about what is and will happen to at least one character in your novel, and in order for us to care, obviously we need to know enough about them to care.

Secondly, conflict has to be on the pages. There has to be a strong presence of conflict, the more complex the better.

And that conflict must be reinforced throughout the novel. Conflict needs to grow and alter throughout the story to keep it fresh and keep the reader on their toes reading.

Fourthly, there has to be a climax in the plot. Some call it the black moment, the point at which all seems lost.

And lastly, there needs to be resolution, a conclusion. An ending that satisifies in one way or another.

String these five elements together and you have the makings of a basic plot. Now the trick is to mold them into the makings of a breakout novel! Any ideas as to how we do that?

Conference update: I leave this morning for the ACFW conference and I'm so looking forward to meeting many of my blogger friends in Denver this week. My prayer for all attending is safe travels, to be a blessing to each other, to be filled with writerly enthusiasm and knowledge throughout the conference, and to build lasting friendships. May we be God's instrument to encourage and help one another, and may we find great joy in rejoicing with one another and discovering His desires for each of us! Amen.

Surrendering to Him,



Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Have an excellent time at the conference. Feel free to pitch for me. Ha ha. :D

I have a strange view of resolution, so I often need to run my endings by others several times b/c I'm not a real "wrap it up with a neat tidy bow" type gal.
~ Wendy

Lazy Writer said...

Hope you have a great time at the conference and come back inspired!

Rebecca Nazar said...

Hey, have a great time.

Jody Hedlund said...

Whew! Glad I had the right idea about plot too!

See you tomorrow afternoon! Yikes! Can't believe it!


Stephanie Faris said...

Yep, that's what I thought about plot. I'm loving this series!

Have fun at the conference!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

Thanks for this series - so helpful.

Have fun at ACFW. :)


Keli Gwyn said...

I hope you have a great time at the conference. Wish I were going. I'd love to meet you in person. One day...

Susan said...

Happy travels, Eileen. I pray that you'll have a safe flight, great workshops and networking ops, and fun with new friends. Maybe we can get together sometime after you get back.

Terri Tiffany said...

HAve a wonderful time! Take lost of pictures of all of you! Hope I get to meet you next year!!

Diane said...

Have fun at the conference. Learn a lot and hope you have tons of fun! :O)

Warren Baldwin said...

Very helpful. I heard years ago that if a novel format (plot) could be used for sermons a lot less people would be falling a sleep in church. I think that is true!

Eileen, checking to see if it is ok if I quote you on my new post that will be up later today. Thanks, wb