Which portions of the plot outline need multiple items

by Nicole
(Missoula, Montana)

Question: I have gone through the 8 parts of a plot outline and I can't figure out how many items should be listed under requirements, forewarnings, costs etc... Could you clarify the approximate number of items that should be established with each of the 8 parts of a plot outline?



Answer: The most important thing, in terms of creating a balanced and complete plot, is that all 8 elements are illustrated or expressed at least once. However, they can and often do appear multiple times in a story and in different ways.

For instance, in some stories there is one big requirement. In others, requirements are like a checklist of items that signal the characters are getting closer to achieving the goal. Ditto with the way forewarnings indicate the approaching consequence.

Regarding the goal and consequence, in some stories they only appear once. In others, they may be reiterated several times. In some stories, they are made clear in the first act. In other stories, it is only near the end that the reader is made to appreciate what the story problem has been all along.

Some writers like to repeat each element, or at least some of the elements, once per act - which means usually three or four times throughout the story. That's a pretty good rule of thumb. Certainly, you don't need to do more than that.

Consider also that, if you are going to repeat an element, you may want to repeat it in different ways. For instance, if the goal is to find a treasure, you might have different characters at different points in the story expressing their longing for different kinds of treasure, rather than have everyone after the same lost jewel (although you are free to do the latter as well).

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Thank You!
by: Nicole

Thank you very much for your response. While I was waiting to hear back from you, I created multiple options for many of the items in the plot outline. The end result was awesome! I was able to fill in some gaping holes in my novel and have avoided the dreaded "sagging middle." Your site is exactly what I needed, and I will be a regular visitor. Thank you so much for investing your time into a resource that is undoubtedly helping many writers.

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