19-1/2 Step Plotting Worksheet
It’s #ThrowbackThursday, and we’re in the wayback machine to last June, when the sun shone, the temperatures gladdened our hearts, and we could step out of our homes without bundling up like Randy from A Christmas Story. Enjoy this 19-1/2 step plotting worksheet.
If you’ve always wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to start, this 19-1/2 step plotting worksheet can start you on your writing journey!
1.Pick a genre (more than two can be combined)
- Any other genre
Choose a main character, your protagonist.
- Sheikh/Tycoon/Billionaire/International Man of Mystery
- Any other character
Create a setting.
- A metropolitan city
- Dude ranch/Yacht/Castle
- Space, the final frontier
Pick a time period.
- Alternate reality
Define the main character’s goal.
- To achieve a specific task
- To find something
- Save the ranch
- To find someone
- Conquer the barbarians
Create a plan the character can use to get his goal.
What specific details will accomplish his need?
Define the main character’s motivation.
This doesn’t have to be an external motivation—save the planet or conquer Mt. Everest. It’s a more effective motive, and will resonate deeper with the reader if it’s tied to an internal motivation, even if the character isn’t aware of why he needs to succeed. Maybe he had an awful childhood and wants to prove himself worthy by saving the planet. Maybe he has to climb Mt. Everest because he was responsible for the accident that crippled his mountain climbing brother. Dig deep into your character’s psyche.
Create conflict, the obstacle standing in his way.
This is usually another character, the antagonist, who has an equally important (to him) but opposing goal. Is it another mountain climber who doesn’t want his record broken? Someone saving the environment?
Create a goal and motive for the antagonist.
Does he want to conquer the world? Why? Were his parents worthless bums, and he has to prove he’s better? Or were they successful, and he has lived in their shadow all his life and now it’s time to show he’s his own man? Remember, the antagonist’s reason for acting the way he does (specifically, against the protagonist) must be real and logical, at least to him.
Give the protagonist an ally, friend or mentor.
- An ally or friend:
- Acts as a conscience
- Defines the protagonist’s character and values
- Acts as a sounding board
- A mentor gives the protagonist valuable wisdom he will use throughout the trials of his journey
Give the antagonist an ally or helper.
- Evil henchman
Do not make him stronger than the antagonist
Create an inciting incident.
This is the catalyst that propels the protagonist into the thick of things. This should be an event so overpowering he makes decisions (usually for the bad) he normally wouldn’t.
Create a deadline. This creates urgency and tension.
- The train is due at 3:10 to Yuma, and the fair maiden is tied to the tracks
- The bomb is set to go off in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl
- Little Johnny will die if he doesn’t have his medicine in 24 hours
The protagonist changes over the course of his journey. He’ll make decisions at the end that he didn’t have the skills for at the beginning.
Write down how you think he’ll change.
What abilities does he need to gain?
How will he acquire them?
Brainstorm key scenes you’d like to include. They might not be in the final version, but could act as a springboard for plot points:
- Chase scene
- Love scene
- Red herrings
- Climatic fights
- Interesting plot twist
Conflict and escalating action. The antagonist’s choices should throw him into deeper and deeper water. Find the one thing he’d never dream of doing, and force him to do it:
- Climb a mountain to save his child when he’s afraid of heights.
- Walk away from the company he built up over ten years to go to the woman he loves.
- Speak before a Congressional committee when he’s self-conscious about his stutter.
Tie up all the loose ends and subplots in reverse order they were introduced.
The protagonist and antagonist have been going at it for hundred of pages, and it’s come down to the final, big, black moment. It’s do or die, and only one will survive.
How are they going to duke this out? Describe the scene.
What’s really, really at stake for your hero?
What is his blackest moment, the darkest hour before the dawn?
Know the thing that makes him survive.
Resolution. The reader needs a brief resolution, the catharsis to return to the normal world. What will you write to show this?
- A happily ever after
- The Hero dies
- A bittersweet ending
- An open end, hoping they’ll buy the sequel
19.5 Decide on a title and start working on your next novel. Good luck!
I hope this 19-1/2 step plotting worksheet helps you start writing your book.
This article is one of many from The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel. If you’ve always wanted to write a book and didn’t know where to start, this book is for you!