19-1/2 Step Plotting Worksheet

19-1/2 Step Plotting Worksheet

19-1/2 step plotting worksheet

AnnaER / Pixabay

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)

  • Romance
  • Suspense
  • Mystery
  • SciFi/Paranormal
  • Historical
  • Action/Adventure
  • Any other genre
  1. Choose a main character, your protagonist.
  • Lawyer/cop/detective
  • Artist
  • Homemaker
  • Sheikh/Tycoon/Billionaire/International Man of Mystery
  • Orphan/Virgin/Bride/Mistress
  • Any other character
  1. Create a setting.
  • A metropolitan city
  • Dude ranch/Yacht/Castle
  • Space, the final frontier
  • Other
  1. Pick a time period.
  • Present
  • Past
  • Future
  • Alternate reality
  1. Define the main character’s goal.
  • To achieve a specific task
  • To find something
  • Save the ranch
  • To find someone
  • Conquer the barbarians
  • Other
  1. Create a plan the character can use to get his goal.

What specific details will accomplish his need?

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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
  1. Give the antagonist an ally or helper.
  • Evil henchman
  • Minion

Do not make him stronger than the antagonist

  1. 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.

  1. 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
  • Other
  1. Character Arc.

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?

  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. Tie up all the loose ends and subplots in reverse order they were introduced.
  2. The climax.

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.

  1. 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!

Available for purchase on Amazon.

The Plot Thickens:21 Ways to Plot Your Novel, including how to outline your novel

The Plot Thickens


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Cool Links 6-22-19

Cool Links 6-22-19 edition

It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of the most interesting things I’ve found on the internet. Cool links 6-22-19 edition brings you reclaimed books, bagpipes and dragons.

From garbage to library

cool links 6-22-19

Gellinger / Pixabay

In my opinion, it’s a crime to throw away a book, but some people do (shame). In Turkey, local garbagemen rescued discarded books and started their own library. What started as a private library soon grew to a collection of over six thousand books and opened to the public in September, 2017. 

The full article can be found here.

A litany of bagpipes

a litany of bagpipes

simple / Pixabay

It’s odd how one link will lead to another. I looked up something mundane (I can’t remember, really), which lead me to an article on Fort Dunvegan, an early Hudson Bay Trading Company outpost in Alberta, Canada. It was named by Archibald Normal MacLeod after his ancestral home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. So, of course, I had to look up Dunvegan Castle, continuously occupied by clan MacLeod for over 800 years.

And then I read about piobaireachd, a term I’d never heard. Piobaireachd is music of the Great Highland bagpipe. If you’re a fan of bagpipes (and who isn’t?), here’s the site for you.

Listen to dozens of tunes. If you’re really serious and want more, you can join the piobaireachd society and pay a monthly fee. Me, I’ll take the occasional lament and call it a day.

A dragon hedge

I’ve never had a hedge to clip, but if I did, I’d follow the example of John Brooker from the U.K. He looked at a 150 hedge near his home and wondered how to make it less boring. The answer: clip it into the shape of a dragon. It took him ten years, but you’ll have to agree, his dragon hedge is awesome and enviable. The full article can be found here.

Cool links 6-22-19

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Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling #ThrowbackThursday

Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

This post originally appeared three years ago, on July 22, 2016. I’m reposting it for #ThrowbackThursday

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Pixar Studios has developed wonderful stories in the past twenty-five years. These include the Toy Story series; UP; Wall-e (my favorite), Finding Nemo; Monsters, Inc. We can identify with many of the characters and situations.

There isn’t much difference between writing for the screen and writing for print. The objective is to have the reader empathize with your characters, worry and despair over their troubles and cheer when they overcome insurmountable difficulties.

How does Pixar hit all these points? How are they so successful? Well, it seems they have a formula, or rules. 22 of them, in fact.

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.

As a beginning writer (many years ago), I started with #3, I’ve since added many of these to my arsenal, specifically, #6, 7 and 16. Pixar’s rules can be applied to writing fiction, and I urge you to review and adopt some, if not all, of these strategies:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Do you use any of Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling? If so, which ones?

Happy writing,


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