Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Monday, August 1, 2011


This is the final installment in the Plotting Your Novel blog series.  I hope you all have had as much fun reading these blogs as I have writing them. If you take one thing away from this blog series, then it was well worth it.

Today, we're going to talk about plot structure.  Whether you are a plotter or pantser doesn't matter.  Every story follows a general rule in structure or set-up.  Anyone remember the plot map we learned in school (you know, the hill!)? Well, that's still the accepted plot structure for novels, but in Young Adult Lit., it has been pushed around that teens want the inciting incident up front.  In other words, teens want the first big turning point of the novel in the first ten pages.  What do you think about this notion?

Ms. Klein says there are really two ways to start a novel: Inciting Incident first, then exposition, or Exposition first then inciting incident. So, let's look first at those two things.  The inciting incident is where your change appears or the hook that starts the conflict, or action plot. Exposition is everything that precedes the inciting incident.  It shows us the character's unconsciousness.

Either way you choose to start, the inciting incident should be in the first act, and as close to the beginning pages as you can get it.

Ms. Klein also states that seventy-five percent of novels should be about escalating and complicating events for the main character(s). Put in obstacles in every act. Obstacles are things that keep your protagonist from achieving his/her desire. That desire could be internal (some kind of belief) or external. Like stakes, obstacles should be proportional.  Raise the tension by increasing the obstacles and raising the stakes.  

What is the climax of the action plot? The climax is a moment in the story when the resolution is near.  Some say it is the most exciting part of the plot for reader.  I would have to agree.  The resolution is when the conflict is solved, the journey has ended.  How do the readers know when the character's journey has changed?

Turning Points are places within the plot where the action and emotional plots cross. You should have at least four turning points in your plot. (From previous post on SAVE THE CAT: Blake Snyder dubs those turning points as Catalyst, Break into Act 2, Midpoint, and Break into Act 3). A good rule of thumb when it comes to turning points: If an event makes a difference in your plot, we readers need to see it happen to experience it ourselves.

Lastly, Ms. Klein discussed the helpfulness of book maps.  A book map is a way to keep track of your plot. She didn't prefer a certain kind but gave a multitude of examples from JK Rowling handwritten book map to Excel Spreadsheet examples.  She also mention plot boards.  Some of the things you might find helpful on a book map are chapter/scene numbers, POV, word/page count, protagonist/antagonist, action plot points, emotional plot points, action drivers, characters in scene, subplots, setting, type of scene, mood at beginning/end, change in scene, first line/last line, key lines/them, date/time, and summaries.

Here are a few pictures to help you visualize a book map.

Full image of book map here: http://www.slashfilm.com/wp/wp-content/ima...rowlingpage.jpg

Justine Larbalestier's Excel Book Map:
To read article: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2006/09/06/how-to-write-a-novel/


So, that's it! I hope you've enjoyed it! Please, leave me some comments on what you liked, any a-ha moments, etc. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Hi,
    Enjoyed these posts, very nicely done.

  2. Hi,Melissa, I've been enjoying these posts!

    I'm a panster, but also, the plotting I do with a plotting line that shows the upward trend at the beginning 1/4, but it's not the highest point, then you get a little bit higher with things happening, and then there's a lull, and then it goes up again to the climax. right after is the resolution. It looks like a wierd M to me.
    I couldn't get to that JK rRowlings page. Don't know if anyone else was having problems. I just love her writing! And you rock, Melissa!

  3. I'm bookmarking all these posts! Awesome stuff, Melissa. Thanks for sharing what you gleaned from your webinar. :)

  4. Wow. This is an interesting way to look at things. Thanks.