What does your plot look like?

In April, Jane Friedman – whose banner reads ‘helping authors and publishers flourish in the digital age’ – posted an article on How to Use a Plot Planner by Martha Alderson. The post presents two typical plot lines and discusses the ways authors can visualize and change their stories. For example:

The energy of a story doesn’t remain flat, just as the Plot Planner line isn’t flat. A story grows in intensity, which is reflected in the line moving steadily higher as the stakes and the energy of the story also rise.

Using a plot planner you can show scenes “where the power is somewhere other than with the protagonist above the Plot Planner line.” Scenes showing character development involving loss, failure, revenge, self-sacrifice, anger, grief, fear, rebellion and so on also go above the line.

Scenes that go below the plot planner line show “the internal, emotional territory of the protagonist”, these are often moments of character introspection and include scenes where information is shared, where a character is planning, contemplating, problem solving and so on.

My own feeling is that many of today’s readers expect more complexity from stories. They expect multiple crises leading to a climax rather than one, and even multiple protagonists, thus making the challenge of plot planning even greater.

My latest novel Time and Regret includes two story lines, one in a more present-day world and one in WWI. Each story has its own plot line, the tension of one mixing with and affecting the tension of the other. Hopefully, I’ve managed the trick of growing intensity for readers, keeping the energy rising and delivering satisfying crises and climaxes! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah does this superbly.


Time and Regret releases August 16, 2016 under the banner of Lake Union Publishing.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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9 Responses

  1. I’ve been thinking recently, “I hope every book doesn’t need to be Game of Thrones” from here on. Mine’s pretty complex – also splits into two storylines in the middle -but I want to be careful not to try to do endless car chases (or, in my case, donkey races?) just for the sake of more spectacle. Tricky.

      1. Set in Toronto in 1999. About a young lawyer. Working title was Lawyers in Love until a fellow ex lawyer said, “lawyers don’t love.” haha

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