1. Also called the storyline. The plan, scheme or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel or short story.
Plot is both easy to come up with and hard to keep coherent. Plot is what ties your story together and keeps the characters in it moving. Usually the plot gives them a sort of goal, like Mount Doom was the goal for the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings. There are many things that make a plot what it is and should be: flow, reason, conflict, timing, coincidence and devices. I will be covering each of these in this article.
Flow is a big part of the plot. If you’ve ever spoken with a critic or a creator of any literary piece, you might have heard the term “plot hole” and heard the subsequent groaning and floundering over it. Basically, every creator and thus, the audience members, wish to have some sort of logical flow to the plot. For instance, you wouldn’t want to skip a very relevant scene leading up to the climax of your story. It will confuse readers if you do, and disrupt the flow of your story.
Reason is motive; whether it’s the motive of your characters or the reason the plot is being driven in a certain direction. There should be a reason for everything. Especially a reason why some questions remain unanswered (if any) and when they get answered. This should follow with cliffhangers as well as overall plot arcs.
Conflict is what makes or breaks a plot. If there’s no conflict, there’s no plot. Conflict between factions, individuals, species or what-have-you’s are important. You may resolve one conflict and then pick up another or perhaps you start off small and then something bigger comes their way that was connected to the smaller conflict in the beginning. The latter can be seen in Teen Wolf and Bitten.
The timing of everything matters a lot to the plot. Mostly what I mean by ‘timing’ here is not actually about the devices, but when the story picks up and when it ends. Does it seem like the perfect spot for it to begin and end? Or does that need some more work and careful consideration? With keeping that in mind, you also want to balance the ‘perfect beginning’ and ‘perfect ending’ with the idea that there is much more to the story and the characters than this isolated set of circumstances. Or perhaps if your characters don’t make it past the end, or aren’t in existence before the beginning of the story, that the world continues, or the universe. However broad you need to go.
Something else to think about while writing your literary or dramatic piece is coincidences. Are there any? Are there too many? Either way and your story could be caught in the danger zone. If nothing is a coincidence then your audience may find the contents too suspenseful or intense. However, if there are too many coincidences then they may find it to be silly, implausible and underdeveloped. Be careful when weighing the options between coincidence and not.
Plot devices are just about anything that continues the plot rolling forward. They can be unexpected twists, reveals, actions, dialogs, etc. Absolutely anything goes. What really matters is that the plot isn’t propelled just by the characters alone. It can’t just be your main characters that are driving the plot forward with actions, reactions or decisions made/not made. If the characters are the only thing going for your writing then you may need to think about fleshing out the rest of the world. Your setting may need to be changed, or the other, minor characters that your main characters interact with, circumstances may need to be altered.
Most of all, as a creator, you want your piece to be coherent and stylistic. You want it to be a complete world with an interesting plot. You need to be aware of everything and make sure that whatever ends are left loose are of your choosing. Make sure you know everything there is to know about your plot, characters and world. The plot makes or breaks the story, so don’t just let things slide.