PLOT DEVELOPMENT REFERENCE
By Barry Marshall
Author can be reached at XXLBadboy@aol.com
Last modified: November 03 2012 12:33:13
Here's the method I use to plot long pieces such as a novel or screenplay:
First, a writer must determine the approximate length of the work. For a novel I choose twenty chapters, each approximately 4000 to 5000 words in length (this will vary). A finished novel will be approximately 80,000 to 100,000 words (the norm for commercial novels). Screenplays of course, already have a set structure depending on 1 hour teleplays, or feature length films. In the case of screenplays, I just use this method for ideas about the plot.
The outline is divided into four sections:
- Story Specifications:
- Here you can put the number of chapters, the approximate word count,
whether or not there are illustrations, etc.
- Here you can describe the timeframe and general physical setting of the
The Plot (or chapter outline)
- Here you can put any history about the events leading up to the story.
- This is the most useful section. Here is the outline for each chapter:
- Goal (s): In each chapter, the antagonists and protagonists have goals. State the goals here.
- Problem(s): To create interesting conflict, the characters can't immediately attain their goals, so list problems here that the character(s) will have in attaining their goals.
- Resolution(s) (if any): List the resolutions to the above problems here. Note that problems introduced don't have to be solved immediately. Sometimes in my stories several chapters may pass before problems are solved.
- Hook: Each chapter should end with a cliff-hanger (hook) that will make the reader want to continue reading the story.
- Notes: Put any notes (or changes) here about the chapter.
- Repeat this formula for each chapter.
- You can also tie a whole novel together by dividing the chapters into sections and using the same technique:
- If the story has 20 chapters, divide it into 5 sections of four chapters. Use the same formula as above, but the goals, problems, and resolutions are
prevalent in each of the four chapters of the section.
- In the case of screenplays, think of the "Acts" as chapters and use the same
This outline has almost totally abolished Writer's Block for me. I can refer
to it, make changes, etc. and it will inspire me to continue with the story
because I know where the story is going. This method may not work with some
writers because they might like a more "free form" style. Notice though, this
outline allows for any changes a writer may want to make in the story.
There's just enough structure here to keep on track while writing the story.
Copyright © 1994 Barry Marshall - All rights reserved.
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