This is a somewhat lengthy post that I wrote on how to outline and create a plot for any fiction story. I'll post a fraction of it, and you can read the whole thing - if this is a topic that interests you - here.
Exposition - This is the beginning of the novel, and it is where the writer introduces all of, or most of, the main characters that will appear throughout the story. It also introduces the protagonist, and describes what sort of character he or she is. This part of the novel is also used to describe the setting, which is especially important in Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, where the reader needs to be able to visualise where the story is actually taking place. This is a critical part of the novel, as it needs to ‘hook’ the reader in and make them want to keep reading, you don’t need to really flesh your characters out just yet, but it is crucial to make a good first impression for the reader here. Once the exposition is over, the next part of the plot begins, or thickens – the introduction of conflict.
Rising Action - This is where the novel starts to build its tension, which increases gradually until the novel’s climax, where the tension snaps like a guitar string that has been strung too tightly. The reader should be kept on the edge of their seat, as a writer you should aim to keep reader’s up at night reading or thinking about what will happen next. The tension doesn’t have to be physical – it can be psychological, it can be subtle or it can be blatantly obvious – but it needs to have some sort of rising action. Generally this phase of the novel involves the protagonist (and the reader) understanding his/her mission, and the starting steps towards realising it. Problems need to arise at this stage of the novel; therefore any obstacle to get in the way of the lead character is essential, even the protagonist can be an obstacle to him/herself. You can’t have a novel where nothing happens, well you can, but no one will read it, loved ones will pretend to have read it at best. At the completion of this phase, the protagonist can finally see his goal in sight and can go towards it without obstruction.
Climax - This is when all that tension you’ve built up starts to unravel, much to the reader’s excitement. At this stage of the novel, the protagonist’s qualities really have to shine through, the reader must see the lead character in a tense situation and see how they deal with it. This is where the fate of the story and its characters starts to reveal itself. The climax is a point of no turning back, for the characters or the reader, unless it’s a ‘choose your own ending’ type story (please make sure it isn’t) then the reader is forced to read on and accept whatever decisions you as a writer make for your characters. The ending you write is the ending your readers have to read, so don’t disappoint! Generally, a final confrontation of some sort should take place now.
Falling Action - This is where all the pieces are collected and the loose ends are tied, the reader is being parachuted down from above and needs to be given some time to absorb everything that has happened in your climax. It is up to you how often you do this, you can if you like, have a succession of mini climaxes followed by ‘rest’ periods of shorter and shorter duration and then end it on a big climax. I’m not going to tell you how to write your story, but that is something you can consider. Readers will be aware that they are reaching the end of the novel when they hit this stage, so naturally this part of the plot can often be the most tense and exciting. It is a good idea at this time to reveal details about characters and situations that were unknown before now. This phase ends, cools off, and starts off again as the end of the story – the resolution of the hero’s adventure.
Denouement - This is the final stage of the novel’s story, and is the exact opposite of the beginning exposition phase. Instead of setting the scene where the story begins and takes place, it sets the after scene – the events following the climax/falling action phases. This is usually where the protagonist and antagonist have a final showdown, or if the protagonist is his own antagonist, this is where he comes to terms with him or herself. This is where everything is put into place, and might take the longest time to write. Make sure when you’re writing this, you often stand back and read it as though you were reading someone else’s work, are you satisfied with the way the story is ending? Another tip is to write the end of the novel first; this might sound silly, but it will give you direction when writing the rest of the novel, as you will always have to ask yourself ‘what is the best way to reach this point (the ending)?’
If you’re in the process of writing your own novel then I hope your plot contains all of the above elements, if not then it’s back to the drawing… err… writing board! You should always have these questions in your head when you are designing the plot of your story:
What’s this story about?
Is anything happening?
Why should I keep reading?
Why should I care?
And there you have it, again you can read the rest here.
If any of you have any plot or writing advice or simply want to share a cool plot idea feel free to!