Create A Plot Outline in 8 easy steps gone wrong

by Cari
(Washington )

Question: I followed the steps and came out with a beautiful plot summary for one character. Where it went wrong....I am working on a first person piece with more than one character focus. Do I do the plot outline for the other characters and weave them together? Or just add to the character that was already done? The story goal is basically the same for all the characters just for different reasons or they want a different outcome.

The writing piece knows where it is going and I see many of the scenes and chapters. However every time I try and plot it the plot reads like where's Waldo. Am I over thinking things?

I know this won't help everyone but in English / Creative writing classes my critiques were always

Well thought out characters
Vivid settings
and strong plot

Grammar and sentence structure need work
Inability to write out a plot please go back to the basics.

Is this just those same issues rearing their ugly heads? Am I the only one with these issues?

Answer: Plot challenges happen to everyone at some stage in the writing process.

For the sake of simplicity, the example given in the "8 Easy Steps" article was of a story with one main character. If you have multiple POV characters, things get a little more involved.

You say that your characters all share a common concern? Great! That will be the Story Goal. The protagonist will be the prime pursuer of this goal, though the other characters will be involved in or affected by it. The Story Goal and the rest of the 8 elements are usually part of the overall throughline of the story.

The overall throughline will progress in this manner (chronologically)...

Act 1: Setup
Act 2: Complication
Act 3: Move to Crisis
Act 4: Move to Resolution

The 8 elements can be illustrated anywhere in this progression, often in multiple ways and at various points.

In addition to the overall throughline, the main character will have his/her own personal throughline, which is the arc of his/her inner conflict. This arc will have a similar 4-part structure, one part per act. And there are two other throughlines. More about them here...

You might also find the W-Plot model helpful...

Now, when you have multiple POV characters, things get a little more complex. Even though they may share an overall throughline, each POV character is essentially the main character of his/her own story. You may not want to develop each of these characters fully, but an important POV character will have his/her own inner conflict throughline as well as being involved in the overall throughline.

If this is starting to feel like a lot of throughlines, that's because fiction can be complex. Try not to get stressed out. Take it a piece at a time.

Often it helps to work out each throughline separately and then weave them together so that the first part of all the throughlines, taken together, make up act one of the story. The second part of all the throughlines goes in act two, etc.

Or you may want to work out one act at a time.

Best of luck.

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