Beginnings, Middles, & Ends–What Goes Where?
Friday, I had a pretty productive day. I sat down and did some thinking about some new scenes in my WIP, and I ended up with a basic plot arc–styled after Martha Alderson’s Plot Planner in Blockbuster Plots-Pure and Simple. I took a photo and posted it on my other blog, if you want to check it out.
As I worked on the plot arc, though, I could see all these threads that I don’t have woven in yet. This is fine, obviously, since I’m just getting started. Still, too many loose story threads, just like too many loose threads on my clothes, can drive me a bit nuts until I get them a little more tucked away.
So this morning I’ve been browsing through some writing books–reading up on beginnings, middles, and ends–and trying for an early placement of some of these threads. This seems to help me look at the rising (hopefully!) tension of the plot, to think about where the big things should happen and how I can build to those spots. For me, it’s mostly about what happens:
- Before the hero’s first threshold–that inciting incident that is a microcosm of the whole, big story problem.
- After the hero’s death (symbolic or otherwise)–when they face their worst crisis and make their most important (and hardest) choice.
- Everything in between.
Here are a few things I came up with, in general terms, for what we should be doing in each of those sections.
- Introduce the compelling hero
- Establish the hero’s story goal/problem
- Create a push/pull tension for hero around that problem
- Establish the primary/most threatening antagonist
- Establish the story world
- Disturb that story world (seriously disturb it!)
- Strengthen hero’s goal & opposition to that goal
- Amp up the stakes for hero
- Amp up the stakes for the antagonist
- Strengthen and complicate character relationships
- Throw in some new, surprising information (Thanks to Jordan E. Rosenfeld, in Make a Scene, for this one.)
- Establish a sense of death hanging over the story world (And thanks to James Scott Bell, in Plot & Structure, for this one.)
- Set up hero to make big choice, while making it “impossible” for hero to make that choice
- Seed and (later) reveal secrets.
- Resolve all story threads
- Test, one more time, hero’s big choice
- Show the impact of that choice choice–on hero and the whole story world
What about you. When you plot, do you just work through scenes in the order they play out? Or do you, like me, try to position them in one of the main sections of the story arc? And, please, freel free to tell me anything I’ve missed! 🙂