Write a Better Plot in 30 Steps or So

One of the things I’ve been doing lately to improve my writing is to study Martha Alderson’s series of videos on better plotting. Ms. Alverson is also known as the Plot Whisperer. She has a website, as well as a couple of books, one of which is The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master.

So what I will be doing in today’s post is to feature one of Ms. Alderson’s videos. They have been really helpful so far as a work on a new story, and also as I plan to plot an old manuscript. After the video, I will also list some examples of books, movies or characters in a book or movie that illustrate the main points in the featured video.

The following is the first in the Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay video series.

I recently watched, or actually watched again,a couple of favorite movies which great starting points for illustrating the principles in this video. The movies are “The Lord of the Rings” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” I’ve read the book on which the latter is based, but the movie is better suited for our purposes.

Okay. So according to Ms. Alderson, when we plot the dramatic action plot, we need to identify what the character wants. In LOTR, we will focus on the characters of Aragorn and Frodo. In How to Train Your Dragon, we will just talk about Hiccup. So what do these three characters want?

Frodo: When the movie opens, Frodo’s wants are simple. Stay in the Shire, live a quiet life just like his relatives before him. He doesn’t want adventure, or maybe he doesn’t think he wants adventure. But we also see a glimpse of stubbornness in him, when he goes off by himself to read a book even though Bilbo might need him in the house.

Aragorn: Aragorn, on the other hand, knows exactly what he wants. He wants to stay as far away as he can from his destiny as the last in the line of kings of Gondor. He wants to remain a Ranger, to hide his true identity. This is evident in the fact that not a lot of people know his name. When we first see him in the movie, he’s known simply as Strider. And he wants to remain that way as long as possible.

Hiccup: Hiccup wants to become a real Viking, even though his physical abilities and methods are a bit different from the norm in his tribe. He is an inventor, and he wants to show that his inventions are useful in achieving the tribe’s goals. He wants to show, for example, that he can catch a Night Fury using his slingshot contraption.

Now it’s your turn. Have you read a book or watched a movie lately? What do you think the main characters in those stories want? What does the character in your own story want?

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