plot problem..................

by Debbie

Question: I have thought of an outline draft of a novel, regarding a boy and a girl with contrasting personalities, who eventually become friends. Then an accident makes them forget their past and they get separated.

I have thought of the ending-tragic. What twist should be given in the middle so that the plot becomes interesting?

Answer: Of course, I can't write your story for you, but here are some things to consider...

The first element to consider is the Outcome, which is whether the Story Goal (the goal of the overall plot) is achieved. The crisis of the story is the turning point that determines what kind of outcome there will be -- either success or failure.

Next, there is the Judgement, which is whether the main character ends up happier, better off, at peace... or not. We can say the Judgement is either good or bad.

Usually, the main character starts off with one approach to things while the impact character (the romantic lead) has the opposite approach. These are the "contrasting personalities" you mention. One of these approaches will be critical to achieving the story goal.

The main character's personal crisis is the moment when he/she ultimately decides whether to stick to his original approach, perhaps grow in his resolve, or to change and adopt the impact character's approach. This decision determines what he/she will do at the crisis, which in turn leads to the Outcome and Judgement.

In your story, much depends on when the accident occurs.

For instance, it could go like this...

Act 1: Setup. They become friends.
Act 2. Complications. The accident causes them to forget each other and separate.
Act 3: Crisis. Events in the main plot come to a head such that the main character is forced to remember the friend in order to make the right choice (by following the friend's example).
Act 4: They achieve an Outcome of success and a Judgement of good.

If you want a tragic ending, the main character would make the wrong choice at the crisis, resulting in failure and a bad judgement.

The other way of doing it would be...

Act 1: Setup. They meet.
Act 2: Complication. The friendship deepens and the main character is pressured to change thanks to the friend's influence.
Act 3; Crisis: The main character may be forced to choose between the relationship and achieving the story goal. He/she chooses to sacrifice the relationship, knowing they will forget each other.
Act 4: Resolution. Judgement is bad. The Outcome may be either success or failure.

In this version, since the relationship ends tragically (the two characters must separate and forget each other), that implies a judgement of bad. (It would only be good if they were wrong for each other.)

So that gives you a couple of options.

1. Success/Bad. In this version, the hero would achieve the story goal because of sacrificing his/her personal happiness. He would give up the relationship for the greater good, resulting in a bitter/sweet feel to the ending.

2. Failure/Bad. In this version, the main character makes the wrong choice at the crisis. This choice results in both a failure to achieve the story goal and an unhappy ending for the main character -- the loss of the relationship. This would be a pure tragedy.

Hope that helps.

Comments for plot problem..................

Click here to add your own comments

Jan 06, 2015
my WIP
by: Vijay

Dear Glen,
Your suggestion to end the story in a tragic way very much matches the story line of my WIP.
I have briefly written the plot for each of the acts below.

Please help me to know more about my work by answering the questions at the end.

Act 1: Setup. They meet.

- Man marries woman under pressure of his dad, and not to forego his dad's property. Man is already in love with his classmate, and convinces her that he will comeback to her in one year. Man takes his wife to the USA.

Act 2: Complication. The friendship deepens and the main character is pressured to change thanks to the friend's influence.

- Woman tries to change because of Man's avoidance of Physical relationship with her. She develops friendship with her classmate who works in the USA. She tries to settle in the USA (as a Physician) by taking necessary initiatives. Man is in touch with his girlfriend back in his country.

Act 3; Crisis: The main character may be forced to choose between the relationship and achieving the story goal. He/she chooses to sacrifice the relationship, knowing they will forget each other.

Now, Man tries to make woman and her friend to come closer. Her friend visits Man's home and develops deeper relationship with woman. Man reveals his intention to go back to his country and ask for woman's consent. She pardons him. Man meets with an accident and woman and her friend come to man's rescue.

Act 4: Resolution. Judgement is bad. The Outcome may be either success or failure.

Man is allowed by woman and her friend to return to his country. Woman settles well in the USA with her friend. Man approaches his girlfriend and proposes to marry her, but loses his dad's property.

Is this a proper storyline and a better plot? Do you suggest any changes to make it more interesting? Any suggestions to add more events to the plot in order to increase the words is appreciated.

Kind Regards,


Jan 06, 2015
To Vijay
by: Glen

I'll assume the goal of your story is to obtain the inheritance.

(Your story reminds me a little of the Australian film "Muriel's Wedding," but that's no matter.)

I think it may work better if Act 1 shows the man falling in love with the local girl in an environment where there is much pressure to marry to please one's family. You may need to create an impact character (possibly the parents' chosen spouse) who believes in the value of marrying for money/status.

Act 2, the complication, would begin when the parents force the man to marry their choice and send the couple to the US. We would see the man trying to make the situation work, taking the advice of the impact character, despite the difficulties. You might consider showing his true love in an equally difficult situation.

Act 3 may be show how adultery between the wife and her new lover forces the man to make a hard choice -- perhaps defend his honour vs. realizing the marriage was a sham anyway and following his heart. All the problems should come to a head.

We may need to see, in Act 4, that the man's parents suffered an unhappy life as a result of not marrying their true loves either, despite the money, so that it is clear their son made the right choice by following his heart.

These are just thoughts.

Jun 21, 2015
Stuck with First Act Logic
by: Vijay K Kerji

Hi, Glen,
With reference to my WIP discussed above, I am left with the last act and my story plot was made possible by your novel planning book.

But in my first act, I am struggling with a dilemma.
- Should hero tell his girlfriend that he is going to marry someone? Would it sound logical?
-Or should hero just bury the fact and marry the girl of his parent's choice only to come back to his girlfriend after one year?

I still feel the first option makes much more thrilling as I have written he talking with his girlfriend about his wife and his plans to reunite with her. But I am not sure if it feels real to the reader.

I really appreciate if you can suggest a few options to make it better.


Jun 21, 2015
To Vijay
by: Glen

I think you could go with either option. It may depend on how hard you want your main character to work to win back his girlfriend. Not telling her he's marrying someone else would surely hurt her feelings. Telling her might do the same. The only way to mitigate it is if you make the girlfriend so understanding that she forgives him (or at least pretends to). That might be an option if you want the reader to see her as so good a person that she deserves the happiness of eventually marrying the main character.

I think you may just have to write it and see what feels right. Your characters may evolve somewhat in the writing process so that the answer becomes clearer.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero