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InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

The Drescher Library Presents: "Into the LibraryVerse" Writing Workshop

Introduction

In this session, you will learn the basics of plot design and have an opportunity to apply what you have learned through fun, interactive exercises. 

In the section below, you will find four short videos covering the following

  • Video 1 - Introduction to plot, plot structure, and plot diagrams (4:40)
  • Video 2 - Examples of plot and and intro to exposition beats (4:39)
  • Video 3 - Inciting incident and rising action (5:14)
  • Video 4 - Midpoint, climax, and denouement (7:28)

Click through using the left or right-hand arrow on the screen to access all of the videos. 

Supplementary Materials and Exercises

In this section, we include additional resources for you to learn more about plot and provide a couple of exercises that will help you apply what you've learned. Click through using the left or right-hand arrow on the screen to access all of the resources and exercises. 

Plot Resources

  • What is Plot? An Author's Guide to Storytelling 

    • This article is incredibly helpful to understand the concept of plot. The plot is the chain of connected events that make up a narrative. It refers to what actually occurs in a story and is one of storytelling’s major pillars. Some will say that if characters are the who and the theme is the why then the plot is the what of the story.

  • What is a Plot Point?  

    • This article is very helpful because it breaks down what plot points are. As well as gives examples of plot points. A plot point is an incident that directly impacts what happens next in a story. In other words, it gives a point to the plot, forcing the story in a different direction, where otherwise it would’ve just meandered.

    • A plot point must: 

      1. Move the story in a different direction

      2. Impact character development

      3. Close a door behind a character, forcing them forward

 

 

Plot Exercise 1: Everything Changes

Exercise 1: Everything Changes

  • Write an inciting moment. This moment is an incident that changes your protagonist’s life – generally in a negative way. The antagonist is usually the cause of this. A great inciting moment is about change that leads to conflict, or conflict that leads to change. Something happens that is important enough for your protagonist to act or react. 

  • Choose one of these openings and start writing:
    • Everything changed when ________ came back to ____________.

    • All four of  ___________’s wives turned up for his funeral.

    • She had 24 hours before they locked down the city.

    • The note on her front door read: ‘You are going to die.’

    • The rumours started when _________ left. Nobody thought he’d gone willingly. 

    • This exercise will force you to start your story at a moment of crisis. If this moment is strong enough it will give your story the impetus it needs to become a novel. 

    • Name the characters.

    • Use the five senses, dialogue, body language, and the internal thoughts of the viewpoint character.

    • Show the setting through their interaction with it.

    • This exercise will show you that you need motivated characters for a novel to succeed.

While thinking of the inciting incident ask yourself the following questions. 

  • Who is the protagonist?

  • What is the situation? What is the hero’s personal condition at the beginning? How will that condition be changed, for better or worse, by the hero himself or by the antagonistic force?

  • What is the protagonist’s objective? At the beginning, what does the hero want? What moral (or immoral) choices will she have to make in her attempt to gain that objective?

  • Who is the opponent? Who or what stands in the way of the hero achieving his objective?

  • What will be the disaster? What misfortune will befall the hero as the result of her attempts to achieve her objective?

  • What’s the conflict? What conflict will result from the hero’s reaction to the disaster? And what is the logical flow of cause and effect that will allow this conflict to continue throughout the story?

Plot Exercise # 2: Created by Margaret Atwood

  • Ten events that might spark a story. They don’t have to be significant: these could be things that happened to you or someone you know or items you read about in the news.

  • Ten characters. These might be characters you’ve already worked with, people you’ve seen but never spoken to, or perhaps historical figures that fascinate you.

  • Ten stories “Legos”: folktales, fairy tales, myths, or maybe family stories that were passed down to you. No need to detail them; just list a few words that sum up the story. 

  • Now take one item from each list, one event, one character, and one existing story shell and begin a new story. What happens when you drop a character of your own invention into an ancient folktale? How does your personal event permit you to play with the foundational folktale? 

 

Plot Exercise 3: Construct a Timeline:

  • Design a linear timeline where you mark critical elements in your plot. Include your introduction, description of tension, the beginning of the journey, critical element (a skill learned), an introduction of a mentor or guide, the shift within the struggle.