By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
By the time you finish your first draft, you should know your characters and your story well enough to be able to answer the following questions. If you can't answer these basic checklist questions, you might want to revise your plot structure and make a few changes.
If you haven't written your story yet, but want to structure it in your mind ahead of time, you might want to create a character sketch and then answer the questions below to plot your first draft.
1. Is your novel character-driven or plot-driven?
2. Regardless of whether your story is plot-driven or character-driven, your main characters will experience some type of change or growth. What is the overall change or growth that your hero and heroine experience?
3. What is the inciting event or exposition at the beginning that hooks or draws readers into the story? This will help you pick up on too much internal backstory about your characters' past. If you have this is the first thirty pages, dump it and insert it some other place in the story.
4. My central Action Plot is:
- The stakes are:
- My subplots are (include the first turning point, the mid-point and third turning point):
5. My central Emotional Plot is:
- The stakes are:
- This change happens because:
7. Climax or Resolution (when everything comes together):
If you have some areas that seem sketchy or you're not quite certain they exist in your story, don't panic. That is the purpose of this Plot Checklist. Carefully meditate and think through every step in your story, each major event, each major turning point and when it all comes together. If you have some loop holes, this is the time when you want to re-plot those areas and rewrite that section.
Think about what could happen or what decisions your characters could make that would up the stakes in their situation. The worst thing you could do, is have them resolve everything before you intend to end the story. What other obstacles could you throw in that would keep them from achieving their goals? These subplots will keep your readers turning the pages, wondering how your characters will get out of this, overcome that, will react to another character's behavior, etc.