Plotting is like hanging up a large load of laundry.
Picture it, a beautiful Monday in June. The air is fresh, the breeze is flappy, and you’re doing three loads of wash. Don’t you dare use that drier. Get a rope and two poles.
- Tie one end of the rope to the house.
- Tie the other end to that big old maple at the end of the yard.
- Prop up the rope—the storyline—with two poles. Best to prop it at about the two-thirds point on the rope—roughly, the golden mean.
- Place the second pole somewhere after the three-quarter mark, Part Three of the story, the beginning of the climax leading to the end.
- That way you can hang all the light laundry on the long length of rope, scenes which develop core conflict and character and move the story. Clamp the heavier stuff to the smaller lengths toward the end of the rope.
When I start to plot, I know the beginning and the end and the two plot pivots, all subject to change of course. I jot in the bones of these five scenes intermingled with some character sketches, perhaps the arcs of the most important players, and pretty soon, the story is writing itself.
When you read fiction, whether it’s a short story or novella or novel, look for those two pivotal plot points. Name them, re-read them, because it’s around these two points that meaning clings to the story like barnacles to a ship.
Photos: Hanging Laundry from Chiot’s Run (Flickr), Creative Commons.