Plotting a Plot: More than just a Tongue-Twister

Unless a writer’s fortunate enough to have his/her novel turned into an audio-book, we don’t have the benefit of sound effects to alert our readers to what’s coming. There’s no twinkly music to signal the moment when a character meets his future bride, nor do drums pound as he approaches a life or death decision. The way a reader surmises a plot twist on the horizon solely depends on an author’s metaphorical brush strokes, a rather daunting task.

I recently helped review some elementary students’ stories, which made me reflect on my younger days. I don’t remember many of my works back then and could never claim to be a child prodigy. In my pondering, I identified a component in English Class that shaped my ability far more than I realized—the plot diagram.


plot diagram


I took the plot diagram for granted because it never seemed that challenging to me as a reader. I didn’t have trouble identifying an initial incident, climax, and the elements in between. I’ve come to appreciate, though, that story charting enhances one’s writing skills, not just those of a reader. We think we’re simply graphing Tom Sawyer, but in reality, we’re being trained in the art of storytelling. Plot diagrams always reminded me of heart-rate monitors, and actually, they are. They chart the heart of your story.

Rising action is, of course, the biggest part of the diagram, which can be scary. It’s relatively easy to think up a vague premise with its conflict and resolution, but creating everything in between sometimes seems unfathomable, especially when writing longer pieces. You can’t solve conflicts too early, yet you don’t want to exasperate your readers with boring filler. That’s when the term “rising action” comes into play. You need to build on that plot twist that set everything into motion with material that will entice them to keep reading. Sure, not every development can be action-packed and suspenseful, but even minor progressions can add tension to the rubber band that is your story…until it finally snaps.

When crafted correctly, your plot will take readers on a thrilling roller coaster they’ll want to ride time and again. Just remember to keep the hills, turns, and loops smooth so as to avoid motion sickness. Also, wrap it up before even the biggest thrill-seeker wants to get off, for the best coasters aren’t necessarily the longest in duration. On that note, I say, “Thank you for riding on the Behind the pages blog. Enjoy the rest of your day!”


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