Plot (narrative)

Plot: The combinations of what happens and how these events are revealed to the audience. The order and arrangement create specific meanings. Scenes have a cause-effect relationship with each other. In a good plot, nothing is coincidental.

Plot synopsis: a brief plot summary of the main plot line. A full summary of a story should answer these questions:
Where (did it happen)? – City Park
When (did it happen)? – At Dawn
Who (were involved)? – John and Sarah
What (happened)? – Murder
How (did it happen)? – John shot Sarah in the head with a semi automatic
Why (did it happen)? – Sarah cheated on John.
Summary: John murder Sarah at dawn by shooting her in the head with a semi automatic because she cheated on him.

Plot Lines and Subplot

The main plot line consists of the major events that lead directly to the climax and what is summarized by the synopsis.

Subplot is a secondary plot line, connected to the main plot, running parallel to the main plot and supporting the main plot. Each subplot has its own story question to resolve. Golden Rule: even if the protagonist isn’t in the subplot scene, what happens must affect him at some point in some way.
Example from Lord of the Rings: while Frodo travels dangerous lands to destroy the ring, others of the fellowship fight to stop the orcs from taking over the lands.

How many subplots?

60,000 words: one
80,000: Two to three
100,000: Three to four
Over 100,000: Five

Plot Points / Structure

Act 1

~1/5th of the book

In total, Act I should take up about one-fifth of the book. The beginning explains who the story is about and how they got into the story-worthy problem situation. This part consists of five components:

(1) setup: the information needed to get the story rolling,

                present the story-world

                Introduce your main character

                introduce the opposition
(2) mood/tone: give a sense of place, mood, texture and theme,
(3) the inciting incident: this problem gets the protagonist thrown towards the story-problem,
(4) The story-worthy problem,
(5) the turning point: the moment the story takes a new direction.

First we see our protagonist in his ordinary world. Then something happens that turns his world upside-down, disturbing the status quo.

Inciting Incident

the incident that kicks off a chain reaction, leading the protagonist to the story-worthy problem. A strong inciting incident has the climax embedded within it.

Act 2

It is the confrontation, a series of battles between the Lead and the opposition. Keep the villain front and center throughout act 2. The scarier, the more danger, the more emotion it produces.

You now have space to add back story and exposition while holding onto the curiosity planted in your reader. If you are using subplots, now is a good time to introduce them. If you are using parallel plot-lines, now is a good time to introduce the second line.

Act 3

A character always knows what he wants, but not what he needs. In the end, the character gets close to what he wants but chooses what he needs instead.


Readers now crave two things. First, a final reactionary scene to show the consequences of the plot and the fate of the characters. Second, answers to all remaining story-questions.

Most last lines subtly imply that the story continues even after the author stops telling it. It leaves you speculating and imagining the lives the characters lead now it’s all said and done.

The epilogue.

The story ends, but life goes on.

The 7 basic types of plots

Overcoming the Monster

The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland. Examples: James Bond, Star Wars. the handmaid’s tale

Rags to Riches

The poor protagonist acquires power, wealth, and/or a mate, loses it all and gains it back, growing as a person as a result. Examples: Cinderella, Aladdin, Game of Thrones

The Quest

The protagonist and companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location. They face temptations and other obstacles along the way. Examples: The Lord Of The Rings, Lightning Thief, Harry Potter

Voyage and Return

The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to them, they return with experience. Examples: Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, Hunger Games


Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. Booker stresses that comedy is more than humor. It refers to a pattern where the conflict becomes more and more confusing, but is at last made plain in a single clarifying event. The majority of romance films fall into this category. Examples: Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral


The protagonist’s character flaw or great mistake which is their undoing. Their unfortunate end evokes pity at their folly and the fall of a fundamentally good character. Examples: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bonnie and Clyde, Romeo and Juliet


An event forces the main character to change their ways and often become a better person. Examples: Beauty and the Beast, Groundhog Day