This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Monday, January 12, 2009

Plot Checklist for Authors

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?

  • Plot-driven:
Most of your novel concentrates and centers around external action events. The story is heavy on fast pacing and exploding action. Your characters are always on the go, either to escape or chase, and they make decisions based on the events happening around them.

  • Character-driven:
Most of your novel concentrates and centers around the internal and emotional growth of your characters. Your novel is about people and what they want, feel, hate, love and how they change. They base their decisions on feelings and internal goals.

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:
6. Crisis or Black Moment (when all is at stake):

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.

Happy Plotting!


What a sweet surprise, your comment and I totally agree with you, Jennifer.

I came from a deep, big, HUGE pit. Some of my making, some of simply being thrown in.

My testimony shares some of that.

Higher Grounds

Jennifer, I love this information you are sharing. So much of it I don't even think about in that way but probably should!

This is great Jennifer. I just finished my wip and have been tossing ideas around (there are many, lol) I'll have to check back with this when I'm ready to start writing.
And thanks for clarifying the difference between plot and character-driven. It's good to know.

Thanks Jen! THis will definitely be helpful.

Thank you so much for the sweet comment and for the follow! I am so glad I found your personal blog! You have some great advice on here. I believe I will be writing fiction in the future.

God bless you today!

Hello Jennifer,So thrilled to make your aqauintance. A historian and author. i am really impressed by your writing here. I can barely hold a pen before you ,I mean it truly
My BIL wants to write a short biographical account of a Christian friend ( gone to be with the Lord last Nov) maybe you can advise me how to do it, so I can pass some tips on to him.

Thanks everyone, I'm glad some of this will be helpful to you. I'll post another checklist next Monday. And if anyone would like to see some posts on specific topics, let me know.

Amrita, I'm sorry about your BIL's friend. He must left a great impression on your BIL or he wouldn't want to write his friend's story. I believe he's in a far better place now.