Thinking About Plot Structure

Some people create extensive outlines for their novels before they start writing them. Some people know exactly what the beginning, middle, and end will be. Some people think of a few characters or an interesting situation and just start writing. Whichever way you approach writing, at some point you will want to take a look at the structure of your novel’s plot.

There are many different ways to think about plot structure. The best thing to do is to find a model of structure that works the best for your particular story and try to mold it around that. I created a YouTube video where I discuss three ways to think about plot structure: Aristotle’s Dramatic Structure, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and what I call the Conflict Structure. Have a look:

There are of course many more ways you can think about the important plot points, and there are also many stories that do not fit so rigidly into these models. There are always going to be authors who break the rules. But in order to break the rules well, we must first understand them.

I know many of you who participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last month probably just wrote 50,000 words without really thinking about how it was structured, how you were developing your characters, whether or not you had any plot holes, etc. etc. One of the best things about NaNoWriMo is that you are forced to keep going and fix it later. As many of you revise your NaNoWriMo projects this month, make sure you pay attention to the way the plot is structured. Is there a strong conflict in your story? Is the story moving forward throughout? Can you pinpoint the rising action and the climax? These are all great questions to be aware of as you strengthen your stories.

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