Friday, 28 February 2014

How to plot novels and screenplays

“How should I plot my novel?”

“How should I plot my screenplay?”

In ten years of teaching creative writing, these are the questions I’ve been asked more than any other. I’m not sure what kind of answer is expected. Something about the Hero’s Journey? Three Act Structure anyone? How about a dash of Vladimir Propp or Gustav Freytag?

I have just started teaching a course on plotting novels and screenplays for Writing School Leicester, so these questions have been much on my mind. And I have been researching the ways different writers go about it.

Some do indeed build works of long fiction on an understanding of archetypal plot structures and story blueprints. But many others do not. Whereas most structural models tend to be quite similar to each other, there is a wide variation in the approaches to plotting used by writers.

I find that diversity strangely comforting.

Some people recommend plotting everything first and then – when the story has been completely conceived – writing it down. Others like to start writing about an interesting situation, but have no knowledge of where the story is going to end up. And between those two extremes, the total planners and the story explorers, there is an infinite range of possibilities.

“How should I plot?”

The short answer seems to be: “In whatever way suits you best.”
Gustav Feytag's Triangle

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