Write a Better Plot, Step 4: The Exotic World

As important as the beginning setting is, the setting for the middle of the story is even more so. Often called the exotic world, this setting is where the bulk of the story takes place. It’s where the protagonist meets challenges, makes friends and allies, duels with enemies, and slowly but surely takes the journey toward change and the resolution of the story.

Martha Alderson talks about the exotic world in Step 4 of her video series on plotting a novel, memoir or screenplay:

For our three heroes (Aragorn, Frodo and Hiccup), the exotic world is as follows:

Aragorn: At the Council of Elrond, Aragorn’s fate becomes tied to his companions in the Fellowship of the Ring, and specifically to Frodo’s success/failure in getting the ring to Mordor. Now no longer a lone Ranger (pun intended!), this hero’s exotic world is one which requires him to take on a leadership role. For years, he has avoided any connection to the throne of Gondor. But now, every step of the fellowship’s journey takes him closer and closer to that point of taking on his kingship. He doesn’t want this position, but he is thrust into it for the sake of Middle Earth. Although the physical setting does move from one place to another, Aragorn’s true exotic world is a difference in circumstance, a journey toward becoming king.

Frodo: Frodo’s journey into his exotic world started when Gandalf told him that the ring cannot stay in the Shire. At that point, Frodo knew what he must do and he determined to do everything can to save the Shire. This movement into the exotic world is very much tied to his physical setting, shown in Frodo and Sam’s departure from their village. The new physical settings are full of unfamiliar danger and terror, without the comforts that the hobbits are used to. This danger becomes worse and worse as the story goes on, but it is Frodo’s hand closing around the ring that symbolizes his first step into his exotic world.

Hiccup: His exotic world is one of relationship with the dragons, particularly Toothless the Night Fury. No one in Hiccup’s tribe has ever touched a dragon and lived to tell about it. To become friends with a Night Fury is unthinkable, even for such an inventive and inquisitive mind as Hiccup’s. The physical setting changes from inside the village, to a secluded spot in the forest where Toothless and Hiccup get to know each other and start to work together. In the course of the story, the middle setting/exotic world began when Hiccup found Toothless bound and decided to free, instead of kill, him.


How about you? As Martha says, into what exotic world will you catapult your character?

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