The definition of plot from Webster’s New World Dictionary is “the arrangement of incidents in a play, novel, narrative poem, etc.” In other words a plot is a series of scenes that build on one another. The characters and plot should intertwine seamlessly. The plot is a series of conflicts (testing your characters) which leads to changes–growth hopefully in your characters.
Action——–Reaction———Choice———Action——–Reaction (a circle)
When we are talking about a plot, I am compelled to say: SHOW DON’T TELL. You might study some of your favorite movies. A movie has to show you what is going on. It’s the nature of the beast. Also, while you’re at it, study books on your keeper shelf to see what that author did as far as plotting went. Go through it scene by scene to see the progression of the plot. Do that with your own book even if you’ve only completed part of it. Stepping back and looking at your book scene by scene can tell you if you’ve done what you should–address the goals, motivation and conflict–have at least three reasons for each scene.
Remember when plotting keep in mind your characters’ goals, motivations and conflicts (that’s what a story is about–if not it isn’t a story that will hold a reader’s interest). A character has a goal because of a motivation, but the conflict gets in the way of that goal. A character’s motivation should run through the whole book–something the protagonist doesn’t have is the best. The goal needs to be strong that the character will act against his best interest. Through conflict your character grows and is tested. The conflict should require your character to make choices and sacrifices. Debra Dixon wrote an excellent book called Goals, Motivation and Conflict about these elements of a story.
I am a visual learner. I know a lot of people are. I need to see things written for me to understand them so drawing out my plot makes sense to me. This is only one way of doing it. A writer must find what works for them and use that method. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always try to refine how we do things. Change can be good. To keep yourself sharp and on your toes you need to always be open to new ways of doing things.
Part I (or Act I): Set up characters
Introduce back story/Establish physical attraction
Establish conflict (internal/external-you should always have both)
Part II (Act II): Show emotional attraction
Crisis Changes New goal
Part III (Act III): Climax
Breakup Reunion Commitment
The black moment/Tie up loose ends on all plot elements
Now when looking at individual scenes in your different sections (parts or acts) you should ask yourself: Does it have three reasons to be in a book? Does it further a character’s goal, motivation or conflict? If it doesn’t do those things, take the scene out. One of the hardest things a writer has to do is cut her own work, but a book should be tightly written. If your writing wanders, the reader will likely wander. You don’t want to give them a reason to put your book down. That is our goal as a writer: telling a story to keep the reader reading to the end and when she puts the book down, she wants to read more by you.