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6 Steps to Creating Your Plot Premise

Anybody Can Write a Novel

Chapter 2 “Creating a Plot” – Section 1 “Plot Premise”


Unlike what I once thought, plot is not a natural result of telling a story. Plot, like all other parts of writing, is a craft that must be studied and then designed with purpose. That being said, there are many different ways that one creates a plot—and countless theories as to how they can be created with the most efficiency. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to teach you several of these techniques and help you to create a Plot Outline. Many people are against such structure in their writing, even many good writers. However, my purpose for this book is to create a system so that ANYBODY can write a novel—even those who cannot subconsciously create a plot in the back of their minds. I encourage all of my readers to follow this system, or to modify it in a way that suits you best, as an exercise to discover what creative feats your mind can accomplish given limitations and structure—similar in spirit to writing poetry in traditional forms. Today, we're going to work on creating a clearly defined, and professional Plot Premise for your outline.


Step 1: Jot down the premise and plot ideas you have for your story. (Story Journal)

Doing this creates a thought bank for you to store all the thoughts you have for your story. This way, all of your energy can be put into piecing these thoughts together in the order that you want them, instead of trying to keep them all sorted in your head. I encourage you to just open a Word Document, jot down your ideas in sentence form, and create whatever sort of order you want of them after they are all written down.


Step 2: Establish basic information about your main protagonist. (Prologue)

Once upon a time there lived a “blank” who lived in “blank” and was known as the sort of person who did “blank”. If you're a writer, or want to be one, chances are that you've already been thinking a lot about your protagonist. We'll worry about polishing him or her up later. For now, just establish a general idea of what sort of character will be driving your story.


Step 3: Figure out what change in your character's life triggers the story. (Inciting Incident)

The plot (a series of events that change the character) is what separates a story from a vignette (which is a glimpse into a character's day to day life). What happens to your protagonist to set the story into motion? Do they fall in love? Does their family die? Is the world invaded by aliens? Do they move to a new school?


Step 4: Decide how your protagonist determines to react to the change. (Call to Action)

The reason that a plot revolves around a protagonist is that they are the ones who strive for some goal—the ones driving the story. Write down how the protagonist reacts to the Inciting Incident. Do they try to make themselves more adept? To set out on a quest? To hunt someone down? To get somewhere safe? To figure out a way to be accepted by their peers? To win their beloved's heart?


Step 5: Determine what force will try to prevent the protagonist from achieving their goal.(Antagonist)

This force can be another character, several characters, nature, god, society, self, and even the person that your protagonist has fallen in love with. Just make sure that there is some force that is keeping the protagonist from his or her goal.


Step 6: Put the pieces together, and finalize your Plot Premise.

“My story is about a protagonist named “blank” who was a “blank” (Prologue). Until, one day “blank” happened (Inciting Incident). And so the protagonist decided to “blank” (Call to Action). But he/she had to overcome the “blank” (antagonist) if he ever hoped to achieve his/her goal. By filling in the blanks, you have created a professional Plot Premise, which will be the basic information that will hook readers and kindle interest in your story. I advise writing it down, and making it the first sentence in a new Word Document entitled “Story Outline,” which we will continue to add to until we finally begin writing the novel.


You'll note that many of the terms I have highlighted have no links connected to them. As we continue with this journey, I plan to create a guide for each and every step in the process. So please bear with me until I am able to do that, and feel free to ask questions about the many topics, as well as to suggest material and themes for relating topics. Thank you.


Feel free to comment with other suggested resources. Any questions about writing? Things you want me to discuss? Comment or send me a message and I will be glad to reply or feature my response in a later article. If you enjoy my reviews, please feel free to share my articles with friends, add it to your favorites, become a watcher on my page, or send send a llama my way!


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Unlike what I once thought, plot is not a natural result of telling a story. Plot, like all other parts of writing, is a craft that must be studied and then designed with purpose. That being said, there are many different ways that one creates a plot—and countless theories as to how they can be created with the most efficiency. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to teach you several of these techniques and help you to create a Plot Outline. Many people are against such structure in their writing, even many good writers. However, my purpose for this book is to create a system so that ANYBODY can write a novel—even those who cannot subconsciously create a plot in the back of their minds. I encourage all of my readers to follow this system, or to modify it in a way that suits you best, as an exercise to discover what creative feats your mind can accomplish given limitations and structure—similar in spirit to writing poetry in traditional forms. Today, we're going to work on creating a clearly defined, and professional Plot Premise for your outline.  

Add a Comment:
 
:iconmedjugore:
Medjugore Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Much helpful indeed, i enjoy the tips. You seem to be a writing comprehensive pathfinder.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2015  Professional Writer
Thank you :) I'm very glad that you've enjoyed. 
Reply
:iconadam-walker:
Adam-Walker Featured By Owner May 8, 2015  Student Writer
Anyone can make a novel, it takes one person to do it right.
Reply
:iconuniquejasmyn:
UniqueJasmyn Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh my God.  This is so helpful!  I'm getting ready to write my first book and I'm looking for many different guides that might help me organize it a bit.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2015  Professional Writer
Awesome! :) Glad to hear it.
Reply
:iconparalelsky:
Paralelsky Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
Hi, and thank you again for your great lessons on how to write a novel. Just a question though, have you thought of putting links in the description, that can lead the reader to the other parts of this series of lessons? 
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015  Professional Writer
Hello, and you're very welcome :)
I have actually begun to do that, but because I'm writing so frequently and because all of it is so new, I can usually only reference back to things I've already written (although I plan to fill in all the links by the end). If you go to my more recent articles, you'll see what I mean. 
Reply
:iconparalelsky:
Paralelsky Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015
Yes, I've noticed, but only after leaving the suggestion. Still it would be nice to have all the links in order somewhere, so that people can see their progression, no matter on what part they're stumbling onto your list of articles. 
Reply
:iconmsartgarden:
MsArtGarden Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
This is a neat lesson. I always wanted to be able to write fiction, but I'm afraid it was never my strength. XD
It's nice to read these broken-down explanations, thanks for sharing. :D
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Professional Writer
Well I encourage you to give it a try. For fun, if for nothing else :) 

No problem! Glad you enjoyed. 
Reply
:iconreaperproject:
reaperproject Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2015  Professional Writer
Yes! Breaking it down beautifully.  You have a gift for clarity and explanation.

On a completely unrelated note: do you think the suspension of disbelief is a good term for what it is supposed to indicate?  I have read the originators explanation of the term, but I don't find it quite fits what it is trying to convey.  I am currently using the B.S. Threshold as a stand-in until I can think of something that articulates the idea better.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Professional Writer
Thank you!

Well I've read a little about the theory, and while there is some merit to it, I don't think it is very well thought out or even true. From what I read (of course there could be more theories on it that could actually be good) your explanation is much better... how much BS a reader will let the writers get away with before the audience just gives up. The only reason it probably works in modern stories, is that audiences don't have much choice but to put up with the lazy writers that monopolize Hollywood and most publishing companies (with the exception of a few VERY good ones). I always operated on a different principle (that for the life of me I cannot find, so maybe a professor of mine just coined it in his head... he was kind of eccentric that way), I'll call it the One Lie Principle. It means that when you are writing fantasy, the audience will grant you one freebie "what if" for your story, and then everything else must conform to reality or realism. For example, Harry Potter would be "What if there was a secret world of magic right under our noses". Star Trek would be "What if in the far future, when humanity has become less barbaric, we found that there was life all over the universe." Basically, you get one major impossible or improbable jump for the sake of imagination, and then everything else has to either fall within the premise of that initial jump or in the confines of realism. And so we'll accept that there are transforming alien machines who can turn into cars, but don't you dare tell us that these metal machines can catch a human falling from a building without killing them instantly. 

Thanks for the question :) I had completely forgotten about this topic. 
Reply
:iconsuperiorstory:
SuperiorStory Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Professional Writer
What about the Believability Threshold?  A little more classroom friendly.  The threshold is a good concept because it is kind of a moving target for the individual, but as a writing concept one would aim for the audience average.  I'm still not sure if that term is catchy enough.  Of course if we all decide to start using it than it may catch on.

The professor's idea has some merit as well though.  Stories that stick with only a few major unreal ideas tend to fair better among the general audiences.  Adult oriented stories have fewer "lies" while children's books can get away with more.  Some genres, like fantasy, can use many unreal ideas.  Regardless of how many "lies" many people get in trouble when they break their own world's rules.  

There is that imaginary line in the sand that one can't cross, and it's almost like once you establish the line at the beginning of a story you can't move it without major explanation.  Even then you still can't move the line very far.  It is like setting the tone for the amount of lie or BS people should expect.  Maybe we should call it the Principle of Constants?  Readers assume real life to be the constant and once you establish new constants in your universe than that is what people expect, and if you violate either your own constructed constants or those of reality that weren't specifically changed at the beginning than people call BS.  Maybe Expectations of Consistency?
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Professional Writer
Or the Believability Standard Threshold? That way we can keep reaperproject's fun and oh-so-accurate acronym, haha. 
Reply
:iconreaperproject:
reaperproject Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  Professional Writer
Sounds good to me.  If you were critiquing a piece you could use phrases such as:
"You're breaking your believability standards." To indicate when one violates their self created standards.
"You're stretching your believability standards." To indicate if one is fudging their rules a bit, but not outright breaking them.
"You're believability standards are unclear."  Could indicate muddled rules.
"You're believability standards have not been set." Could indicate not making the rules and just diving into something crazy.

This works pretty well.  I can see the future where we can make presentations on this topic and laugh among ourselves as to the actual acronym.
I'm going to play around with that phrase for a few days and see if it sticks.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  Professional Writer
Awesome :) 
Reply
:iconsuperiorstory:
SuperiorStory Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  Professional Writer
I'd use it.
Reply
:iconpaigeypie98:
PaigeyPie98 Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for this! I'm actually writing out the storyline for a comic right now, it's open in a word document haha. This is helpful, though I seem to be doing this all naturally over a long period of time (I've been working on it for about a month). This is a nice guide!
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2015  Professional Writer
Thank you :) I hope this and my other articles will be helpful for you.
Reply
:iconnantanamo:
Nantanamo Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I always have to do a lot of research about my novel's environment and need to be sure of my facts even if it is not a real life story.  I am working on one now about WW11 and tracking movements of my protagonist etc.  Hard work getting facts.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Professional Writer
That is definitely true. I did a short story for WWII once, and all of the death records that I was looking for were nonexistant, as well as any solid details about prominent figures. I eventually had to just use the vague details about where they were and at what time, and where they were last seen. I imagine WWI is even more difficult. 
Reply
:iconmethusulacomics:
MethusulaComics Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015
I'm making a comic and this might be useful In the future.
so thanks for the tips :)
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Professional Writer
Definitely! I've picked up a lot of tricks from reading graphic novels... so I think the two crafts go hand-in-hand. 
Reply
:iconmethusulacomics:
MethusulaComics Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015
yeah. I just hope my desire for complexity doesn't jeopardize my creation.
Reply
:iconmagical-chickens:
magical-chickens Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I really enjoy reading your tips. I would like to write a novel one day and having something like this is very handy.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Professional Writer
That's great! You really should :) 
Reply
:icontoffnm:
Toffnm Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015
These are some very good tips for beginners. I'd like to see more details for every step though. You could also write about different ways to put together your story, how it unfolds and ways to build up tension. I'd also love to read about character traits and how to stik with them. Knowing your character is one thing, another is how you present them throughout the story :)
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Professional Writer
Sounds good :) Just stick around. I don't plan on stopping until I cover every topic I can think of.
Reply
:icontoffnm:
Toffnm Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015
That's good. I'll look forward to it :)
Reply
:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015
Say, do you have much in the way of advise on writing a plot? Besides the information above, that is. I've a premise of my own, but as I've got no training in creative writing, I've no idea if the structure is any good.
Reply
:iconjosephblakeparker:
JosephBlakeParker Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015  Professional Writer
I'll be working on answering that very question over the next few weeks :)
Reply
:icongreatkingrat88:
Greatkingrat88 Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2015
Well, that would be appreciated. I do have a good idea about my protagonist, what drives her, what triggers her story, and what her antagonist is up to, but I've had little objective input on it- my friends like it, but my friends like me, needless to say...
Reply
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