How To: Basics of Plotting

There are hundreds upon hundreds of tools out there on the internet to teach you the fundamental parts of a story. However, I want to tell you a secret-

Come closer.

Closer still.


You don’t have to follow all of those plot structures all of the time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a reason those plot structures exist. They exist because they help give you a skeleton to hang your story around. They help with pacing of your story, they certainly help you edit it.

But you don’t have to follow it. And I certainly don’t.

Photo by Filippo Peisino on

How I plot

I plot…by making it up as I go along. Which is extremely liberating, but also extremely frustrating as I find a plot point that I need to weave into earlier scenes. It’s a constant battle between trying to get Characters to go from A to B in order to execute Awesome Scene C.

However, I’ve also started a habit of trying to give my story a bit of a structure. And by a bit, I mean some kind of poorly laid out scribbled notes on a piece of paper that gets the characters through the main bones of what I need them to do in order to get to the thing I want them to get.

Now, saying I don’t use plot structures is a lie. I use bits of them, peppered in through my writing process (and especially through my editing process). One of my favourites I’ve found is the “Two Pillars” which works by imagining a bridge and then creating your pillar moments, where your character enters the bridge, and where they exit it. The bridge itself is your middle, or their journey of how they get to your second pillar.

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on

Now, the original article I read on this was talking about this structure on a higher novel level. But I’ve found this concept really helpful to break down my WIP into “sections”, and then identify what characters start with, and where I need to get them to go. As I’m a Gardener writer, these “start” and “finish” points tend to be emotional states – “I want to find a Book”, “I want revenge”, “I want to clear my name”.

With the pillars in place, I can start weaving a story towards that end. Sure, it’s going to take some twists and turns along the way, but the beauty of writing down a plot on paper is you can free-hand edit it. You can re-direct arrows, stick post-its over bits that don’t apply anymore.

It gives you a living, breathing document that you can use as a touchstone for your writing. Since I’ve been doing it, I’ve found that my scenes flow a lot easier, and it makes me think about the consequences of the character’s scenes.

How to learn

They say there is no substitute for practice, and that is one core tenant of writing. You have to try and see what happens.

However, it always helps to give some guidance. So I’ve put down below a table of “Beginning” and “End” pillar ideas for you. Create a simple scene, start at one end, and then work out a sequence of events to help you get to the other. I’ve included both “emotional” and “reality” pillars, depending on what sparks your interest more!

Beginning PillarEnd Pillar
“I want to find my heritage”“I have come to peace with my Mother’s actions”
Stealing something importantGiving the “something” back to it’s proper owner
“I am not the person who can be a hero”“I am a hero”
Finding a secretTelling the secret to the world
“I am right about this”“I was wrong, and now I know why”
“I will revenge my lover”“Revenge brings no peace”

Have a go!

Let me know how you get on, and don’t forget to check out my other “How To” advice blogs!

Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Daniel Gonzalez on Unsplash

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