What’s in a Plot?

We all talk about plots and I think we all know what a plot is.  But how many should we have in a story?  Is the plot the main consideration when writing a story?

I’ve struggled with these questions on numerous occassions.  In fact, my first few stories didn’t come from having a great plot spring into my head.

The truth is, I had characters, setting and FINALLY plot developed in that order for each story.  For me, the characters define the setting and the characters and setting define the plot.

Hardly rocket science, is it?

But wait… what about motivation?  Hah!  Tricked you… that’s part of my character definition.  At least, it is for my primary characters. 

I usually use motivation to generate my secondary characters.  After all, those characters don’t generally need to be flushed out as much.

So, I’ve got some compelling characters who need something to do to make a story.  After all, compelling characters sitting around a table with nothing to do (or talk about) is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

These characters happen to live several centuries from now in a world where communication is instantaneous, energy is plentiful and the primary occupation is learning and growing your own potential.  Overpopulation and war have long been eliminated and disease is all but unknown.

Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?

So what could your characters do?  What problem could they possibly face that needs solving?

Maybe one of the characters is precognizant and see a coming catastrophe, or maybe aliens invade.  Maybe some powermad anarchist is thawed out of a glacier and wants to take over the world.

Who knows?

Whatever the compelling event, it must suit the characters and setting in which they live.  Otherwise, the characters will always be at odds with the story.

Would it make interesting reading?

Maybe.  But I think it would be more confusing than anything.  I would almost expect the characters to keep stopping and saying to themselves… “Why am I doing this again?”

Now, where was I?  Oh yes… what should be in the plot?

In a single statement:  it should be a compelling event that motivates the characters towards achieving a goal or objective within a setting.  Make sense?

So how many plots should I include in my story?  That’s a tough one to answer.

A main one, obviously and as many as are needed to effectively explain the motivations of the main characters.

Everyone has a path to follow including the characters in your stories.

But what drives them?  And what challenges will they face to get there?


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