So you have an idea for a new novel. Excitement fills you as the ideas come to mind, multiply and overflow onto any scrap of paper handy. You can imagine what a fantastic story it is going to be once it is finished, but that enthusiasm fizzles out as you’re overwhelmed by the sea of disconnected notes around you, and the finish line seems light-years away.
The Plot Planning Sheet is an outline, and can be used not only for novels but short stories and non-fiction articles. It will assist you in recording and organising your ideas, but also to keep track of and remind you of all events, characters and their actions throughout the process of writing your story. It helps to avoid minor characters popping up or disappearing half way through, plot leads fizzling out to no result. You don’t want your the reader being left confused and dissatisfied as they flick back through the pages in a mission to answer their questions themselves .
I was first introduced to this humble document in the early stages of my first writing course, at fifteen years of age. It is a brilliant tool to map out everything in your story, including key events, characters, settings and more.
Here is how you would set up your Plot Planning Sheet:
Title your page ‘Plot Planning Sheet for (your story).’
List Section 1- Beginning, Build-up and Climax
In the below sections, we write an outline of ideas for each section of our story. It gives us a general direction for our plot, of which we can craft our sub plots around.
Beginning- Sets the scene for the story. The introduction of characters, the first focal point (explained later), and the plotting of the story takes place here.
Build-up- As the plot unfolds, the characters work to solve the problem they’re faced with. The story’s dramatic highspot (also explained later on) takes place here.
Climax- The story reaches its conclusion. All the factors of the plot are brought together here, and the Main Character succeeds over all.
List Section 2- Working Plot Plan
The below elements combine to create the foundations of the stories.
Desired Emotion- The emotions you want the reader to feel whilst reading your story eg. Fear, Sadness, Nervousness, Sympathy.
Theme- The theme you want your story to take eg. Thriller, mystery, horror, love story, comedy.
Dramatic Highspot- Otherwise known as the ‘Black Spot’ in the plot. The Main Character must overcome seemingly impossible circumstances and become the hero.
Main Character’s Purpose- This is where you list what the Main Character’s purpose in the storyline is eg. To defeat evil, to solve a crime, to win true love’s hand.
Section 3- Plot Units
Plot Units work alongside the Beginning, Build-Up and Climax sections. They are the major events/actions taken in the story.
First Plot Unit.
Focal Point- The first action taken in the story, which sets the pathway for the rest of the plot eg. A murder, an accident.
Main Character’s Response- The Main Character’s reaction to the situation, and the actions he/she takes to solve the situation.
Second Plot Unit
Focal Point- The second action point in the storyline, eg. an action by the villain to bring down the hero. The second Focal Point should thicken the plot in the Build-up of the story.
Main Character’s Response- The Main Character’s reaction to the situation, and the actions he takes to resolve it.
There you have it. I do hope the Plot Planning Sheet assists you writing your stories! Stay tuned for the next installment in my Writing For Beginners article series, which will give a guide to Mental Exhaustion and writer’s block, Editors and Proofreaders, Competitions, and Writers Groups. Until then, Happy Writing!