Write a Better Plot, Step 5: The Three Major Plot Lines

Even as a beginning writer, I’ve heard about the concept of plot. What I didn’t was that there is more than one plot in any good story. Plot whisperer, Martha Alderson, talks about the three major plot lines in Step 5 of her plot series on YouTube. A side note, though: a lot of these videos have a considerable amount of background noise, which sometimes makes for a difficult listening experience. But, I’ve found her tips to be very helpful, so I just try to power through and listen beyond the noise in order to get at the gems. 🙂

Now let’s take a look at two of the characters we’ve been dissecting for this video series. Since there are three plot lines to discuss, I’m only going to go over Aragorn and Hiccup, and leave Frodo for discussion on another day.


Dramatic Action Plot: In the Lord of the Rings, the plotlines that involve Aragorn and Frodo intersect for a period of time. However, for the later part of the first movie and the two sequels, these two characters have very distinct yet related dramatic action plots. Aragorn’s dramatic action plot is what provides the action/battle scenes in the movies. It is all about fighting off the various enemies of Middle Earth, such as the armies of Saruman and Sauron.

The battle scenes escalate, beginning with the small bands of Uruk-hai that abduct Merry and Pippin and culminating with the combined hordes of men with giant elephants, mercenaries, orcs, and Uruk-hai in the battle for Gondor. The armies of the enemy are so vast that Aragorn needs extraordinary help in order to defeat them. And he wouldn’t have been able to do so without having gone through his own character emotional development plot.

Character Emotional Development Plot: Aragorn’s internal journey took him from being a wandering Ranger to becoming King of Gondor. He had to come to the realization that, in order to save Middle Earth, he had to put aside his old life and embrace his destiny. The climax of Aragorn’s emotional development plot happened when he faced his fears in the Dimholt Road. This was when he stepped into his kingship and summoned the armies that live in the mountain. Only as king could he have called those armies to fight for him.

Thematic Significance: The theme of Aragorn’s journey is about putting aside fears in order to fully embrace one’s identity. As we look at the entire plot through the three movies, we are able to see how this theme was developed through full the dramatic action and Aragorn’s emotional development.


Dramatic Action Plot: The dramatic action in How to Train Your Dragon is reflected in the title of the movie. It’s all about how Hiccup learned to train his Dragon, teach others how to train theirs, and how to lead those trained dragons to defeat their enemy.

Character Emotional Development Plot: Hiccup’s emotional development took him from being a weak and misfit Viking to one who understood that he had something very special and valuable to offer his tribe. He had learned something about the dragons, something that was contrary to what his tribe had known for centuries. Hiccup had to accept this for himself, first of all, and then have the courage to show his tribe the truth.

Thematic Significance: One of the themes of this movie is courage to stand up for the truth, even when that truth goes against the common belief and could result in drastic consequences for the hero.


OK, so I hope this video has helped you take a look at your own story and the three major plot lines. If you’ve read a book lately, please feel free to share that and its three major plotlines.

Happy plotting!

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