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Plotty Plottiness – Step Two

Originally published at Through the Tollbooth. You can comment here or there.

Yesterday’s post was about my first run through of making sure my novel has a plot and structure. That’s where I look at these components:


So once that is done, I finish my draft.

This is what I do next:


No! No! Just kidding. After I’ve written the whole first draft, I start revising again, filling things out, putting in more detail, etc. And it’s in this draft that I try to make sure that my book has the following components:

Clear Basic Goal – What the character wants.

Two Key Points that Change Acts - These are big moments for your character and mark the transitions between the acts of your story. Stories typically (but not always) have three acts.

Opening Image that sets it all up – This is something that evokes the theme/mood of the piece or the character. For my book, NEED, it was a man pointing at an airplane as it took off. That image? Totally didn’t get to stay in the book, which is kind of funny, but it propelled me through multiple drafts.

Catalyst/Inciting Incident – Starts the craziness. Your character’s world is suddenly changed by something that happens.

Now, you might be like, “Hey! Carrie! Both times you have a clear basic goal down. What gives?” And this is where I say to you: The clear basic goal is the most important part of your part because it gives motivation to your main character. In the Twilight series, Bella wants Edward, wants to be a couple. Everything else stems from that – all her actions and decisions are about her going for that goal.

And actions and decisions? That’s what makes things happen. Your plot? Your plot is a series of events. It’s things happening.


CLEAR BASIC GOAL = Character’s motivation.

Character’s motivation = things happening

Things happening = PLOT

But the tricky part is that usually there has to be a structure to the plot and the book. For me, I try to abide by these rules:

1. Put the inciting incident near the beginning. I aim for the first 25 pages.

2. Put the first big plot point at the end of Act 1.  This first plot point is where your protagonist has a Holy Cat moment, where they think, “Can I really do this? How much am I really willing to do to get this vampire dude to love me, to defeat this evil dark wizard, to get away from my horrid aunts, etc….”  This is where they are tested. I take a total word count and then aim for the end of the first third. So if it is 100 words, word 33.

3. Put the second big plot point at the end of Act 2. This is where the crisis happens. This is where your main character has had enough of dodging fangs and bullets and giant carrots. Their world is a dangerous place and they need to fix it.  Again, I take a word count. I aim for the two-thirds mark.

4. At this second plot point, I try to make there be a new focus on the main goal, throw in an element of time (ticking clock) to make it more scary/urgent, and then I hang on and hope for the best.

-Carrie Jones