Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot

Week 1 : Plotting a Course

MegsObserves : The course has really good music and really well shot. It’s amazing ! Sorta jazzy.

Plot : Causal relationship between two events.

Image result for Freytag's pyramid

Character + Action = Plot

Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan’s most celebrated animators, director of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and many others, said that what drives animation is the will of the characters. You don’t depict fate, you depict will. In both these examples, character is an integral component imply. In this section, we’re going to look at how character and action can work together to create an exciting plot.

Brando Skyhorse – Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot – Coursera


  1. What do they want?
    A character that needs something is fate. A character that wants something is will.
  2. What are their weakness?
    Now while you may want to hang out with someone who’s honorable or virtuous in real life, we don’t really make for interesting characters on the page.
  3. Where are they from?
    Understanding this biographical information helps inform us of what a character wants because it can help us understand where they came from.
    Then, there’s the more emotional answer. Where are they from? As in, what is their emotional background? Did they have two loving parents? Or were they raised by a single, overworked mother? Did they lose a sister when they were very young? Were they bullied in junior high? Where are they from emotionally helps us understand a character’s motivation for acting the way that they do. And it can be instrumental in helping us understand why a character desires a particular thing. It’s also crucial in helping us answer the next question. Where are they going?
  4. what can your characters do to surprise you?
    Look for places in your story where your characters do things you didn’t expect them to do, and encourage your characters by following them instead of trying to lead them.

Those obstacles are rising actions. Your character overcomes these obstacles, these rising actions only to encounter even larger obstacles on the next level or in the next chapter.

For this you’ll need the inciting incident, a character, the obstacle, and the quest. Now how do you put it all together? When an inciting incident happens to character, they have to overcome conflict slash obstacles, to complete quest.

Week 1 Assignment

Week 2 : The power of structure

Aristotles Three Act Structure

  • The beginning, this is where you set up your characters, their relationships, their wants and desires. 
  • The middle, this is where the plot reaches its climax.
  • The end, this is where the plot is resolved.

Horace Five Act Structure

  • A stands for action. Action is what draws the reader in. It’s something specific and concrete. Lots of stories open up with a character thinking about something or doing something passive. That’s not an action, an action is something physical that involves a character doing something.
  • B is for background. Background is essentially context, or what was happening to these characters before the story started. This is the part of the story where we get essential and vital information that will help us determine the character’s actions as we go through the story.
  • Development, this is where the meat of your story is. This is where the plot of your story happens because it’s in this area where your characters deal with the rising actions you throw their way. And it’s up to the characters to develop themselves and their responses in either succeeding or failing to overcome the obstacles in their path.
  • C stands for climax. Now, as I discussed in module one, the climax is where the biggest rising action happens in your story. This is the place where the key narrative twist in your story happens. And because of that twist, things are different for your main characters in a real and significant way.
  • E is for your ending.

Week 3: A Scene in motion

What Is a Scene?

Anthony Doerr, author of the best selling novel All the Light We Cannot See, says his students always want to write about quote, big things like love or getting lost or heartbreak. And they missed the simple message of staying in the physical level all the time.

American writer Ernest Hemingway wrote scenes using what he called the Iceberg Theory. He honed this theory from his time as a journalist. We had to cut everything away except for the most essential details. The idea is we see only a tip of what’s happening to a character, but the substantial bulk of what makes this character tick is like an iceberg hidden underneath the water.

Mike Nicholas, an American film director, responsible for such classic films as The Graduate said that, all good scenes are essentially one of three things. An argument, a seduction or a negotiation?

5 Point checklist for scenes

  1. Action.
    An action is not reminiscing about something that happened to someone earlier in the day. It’s not thinking about something or dreaming about something, or wishing about something. An action involves your character standing up and doing something.
  2. Dialogue.
    Much in the same way, dialogue is not a transcript of two people talking. Dialogue is not where people say please or thank you or have a good day, or introduce themselves by name. Dialogue should never just convey information. All dialogue, and in fact every sentence you write should do two things, deepen our understanding of the character speaking that dialog or advance the plot, or both.
  3. Intimate Detail.
    A scene requires specific intimate details about yourself, your surroundings, and the people you are writing about. Intimate means details that a reader will not be able to see or notice by themselves without your help. 
  4. Inner Point of View
    What are you thinking, feeling and processing? The wonderful writer Ann Hood refers to this as the three Rs, react, reflect or reveal. Now let me explain. Whenever it’s time for a character to explain what they’re feeling about a particular action, a prop, another character or an obstacle in their path, they should do one of three things.
    – React, this means they do something active right in the moment. They kick down a door, they pick up a chair, they pull out a gun, etc.
    – Second, they can reflect. This means the character thinks about what they’re faced with in the moment and internally weighs their options.
    – he third thing they could do is reveal. This mean our character reveals something about themselves to the reader that helps us understand who they are, and how they’re gong to respond to this action, prop, character or obstacle. 
  5. Five, all scenes need a definite starting point and a stopping point. Great scenes start with an action. They end when that action has been resolved in some way. So if your character scene started by trying to get into a house, the scene ends when your character has either got into the house or it’s decided not to go into the house.

Week 4 : Cut It Out

Editing and Revision

21 point checklist

  1. Spellcheck
  2. Omit needless words
  3. cut places where you’re doing the reader’s thinking for them.
  4. cut stage direction, belaboring the obvious, clumsy back story etc. 
  5.  insure consistent character motivation.
  6. has something happened? An action, a concrete action by the end of the first paragraph of your story. 
  7. is my story coherent?
  8. are there scenes? Are they clear? Are they complete scenes? Did I hit all five points on my scene checklist?
  9. Number nine, do I start each chapter in each scene with something active? 
  10. Number ten, am I writing in active voice? 
  11.  is setting working? 
  12. are my characters acting believably?
  13. are the transitions between my paragraphs and sections clear?
  14.  does my story fit together the right way? Does it follow the five act structure? Action, background, development, conflict and end. If your story doesn’t have the right structure, your story won’t make sense to a reader.
  15. did I explain to the reader every risk involved for each of my characters? Characters that don’t risk anything stay at home on the couch. Characters that take risks give us a story.
  16. did I explain to the reader the consequences of these risks? The better we understand what a character risks, the better we can empathize with that character, and want to follow them along.
  17. does every story of my sentence deepen our understanding of character or advance the plot? Every sentence of your novel has to do this. Any sentence that fails this simple test, should be cut.
  18. Number 18, is my second draft 10% shorter than my first draft?
  19. am I ready to discard pages or entire drafts that are simply not working instead of trying to find endless ways to jerry rig them? 
  20. Is what you meant in your head as clear as it can be on the page? 
  21. Are my readers no longer confused.

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