P is for Plot: Also called the storyline, it is the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, such as a play, novel, or short story. (Dictionary.com)
What’s a novel without a plot? Even character-driven tales that focus more on the cast—rather than the overall story itself—have a plot, however vague. In its most basic sense, the plot is how the events in a story directly and emotionally impact the main character, how it transforms him. This dramatic action affects the character’s emotional development in thematically significant ways.
There are five basic elements to a plot:
Conflict—the very essence of the story. It raises questions and gets readers involved in such a way as to make them care.
Engage the reader’s sympathies—this is done by grounding the reader in knowledge of the character and enriching the story with personalizing details.
Complications—the conflict must twist, turn, deepen, and grow, sustaining the reader’s interest through constant development and escalation.
Climax—the highest point of dramatic action, when the thematic significance becomes clear, when all the major forces come together for a final clash with the main character, who is able to use his new awareness and skills to confront and conquer his enemy.
Resolution or Denouement—this is the sum of the character’s actions, an end and a new beginning, where those actions have relieved the pressure, providing a cathartic release. The protagonist makes peace with his past and returns to the world around him.
In addition to the main plot, each story should have at least one or two subplots, and each of these subplots must have these same five basic elements. These subplots lend a sense of connectivity to secondary characters. A novel’s texture is made richer when these secondary characters and subplots connect to the protagonist and the main plot. Subplots create complications and deepen the main plot and can create range when the characters jump between the subplots and main plot.
There are several basic plot structures which have been used over and over:
- The Quest (Catcher in the
- Revenge (The Count of Monte Cristo)
- Love (Gone With the Wind)
- Adventure (Huckleberry Finn)
- The Chase (The Fugitive)
- One Against (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
- One Apart (
- Power (The Godfather)
- Allegory or symbolic narrative (Lord of the Rings.)
My novel, The Mistaken, is a combination revenge/power/chase plot structure.
What about your novel’s plot structure? Have you included all five basic elements in your plot and subplots?