Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beginning Your Story: Concentrating the Heat

By now you should have a bunch of ideas calling out to you, demanding to be explored in your story. How do you make sure your reader feels the same way? By turning up the heat. The heart of your story is conflict and the key to good conflict is highly motivated characters pursuing conflicting goals.

Relationship Map

  1. Write the names of all the important characters (who you believe will substantially influence the plot) arranged in a circle. You may also include names of organizations that are involved if you have not yet created a character to represent their interests.
  2. Draw a line connecting your protagonist and your antagonist.
  3. Above the line write the main issue they have in common.
  4. Below the line write the approach or value about this issue where they disagree.
  5. Repeat for all your listed characters.

For example, in Kingdom of the Stone, Karux (the protagonist) and Amantis (the antagonist) agree that the scattered human tribes need to work together to protect mankind from approaching inhuman threats. Where Karux and Amantis disagree is that Karux wants to recruit the surrounding villages into a cooperative effort to feed and protect themselves while Amantis feels the best approach is to control them through fear of the angorym, coercion through controlling food sources and the threat of violence from his growing army. During the course of the story, this conflict escalates into literal all-out war.

Karux’s allies, the elders of Har-Tor, agree with Karux that the refugees of the northern valley must be protected and provided for, but disagree on where their priorities should be and how to use their limited resources.

Every major character should have areas where their goals intersect (forcing them to interact and not just avoid each other) and areas where their goals diverge (creating tension or even open conflict between the two.) Even a loyal sidekick, who unquestioningly supports the protagonist, may start to question the protagonist’s actions if the cost of pursuing that goal becomes too high and the sidekick feels he needs to protect the protagonist from himself.

If two major characters agree on everything, you should consider combining them into a single character. Each character, like each word of the narrative, needs to pull its own weight. Excess characters, like excess words, will only bog the story down. It should be mentioned, however, that sometimes two or more characters may function as a single character, (e.g. the twins Fred and George in Harry Potter) but if any character does not add additional tension or conflict through a unique point of view, they don’t need to occupy your limited story space.

You may discover certain patterns emerging through this process. Alliances may form or shift adding extra complications/interest to your plot. Or you may find holes where a character needs to be added or an extra character that needs to be cut. You may even discover your protagonist through this process or discover your real protagonist is a different character than you thought. That’s all good. You’re getting to know your story better.

We’ll talk about protagonists soon, but first we’ll discuss how to refine your ideas through the Idea Filter with one last use of our already over-extended metaphor...

Next time – Beginning Your Story: Focusing the Fire

Friday, February 26, 2016

Beginning Your Story: Setting the Fire

You started with a spark of inspiration, a story question or a situation worth exploring. You've brainstormed all the related ideas, themes, characters, situations feelings, even symbols or mental images this idea inspired through mind-mapping, previewing and visualization. Now it's time to get cooking.

Find the Hottest Coals

First: set all that work aside (you'll need it later) and walk away. Clear your head. Think about something else. In fact, don't think about story at all.

Second: find your mental creative place (a quiet room, or put on your headphones and blast your favorite music, go for a walk, or even just wait until a certain time of day when you feel the most relaxed and creative) and summon up those feelings and images that first inspired you.

Third: without referring to you notes, write down the four or five key ideas you feel are absolutely necessary, the things which resonate with you the strongest, the reason you want to write this story.

Pile On the Fuel

Now get in touch with your inner seven-year-old child and ask questions, lots of questions. Pick the first item on your short list and start writing down questions. If the item you're thinking about is a thing or a place, be sure to ask about the people behind it. Who made it, or made it significant. What important thing happened there or with it? If it's about a person, ask what important changes have occurred in their life when the story starts. What do they want to change? Why haven't they done so before now? If the item is more abstract, ask yourself what about it makes it cool, creepy, attractive, frightening or maddening and what kind of people, places or things do you associate it with.

Don't worry about whether or not the questions seem silly or even make sense. Just jot them down quickly You're goal here is to trick your subconscious into giving up its secrets. When you've gone through each item, go back and answer these questions. Again, work quickly. Write whatever springs to mind. If some questions or answers stand out, go back and ask more. You may even find yourself in a dialog with yourself, asking and answering your own questions as you look for the meaning behind the things you want to write about.

No matter how strange this dialog may seem, assume that nuggets of pure gold are hiding within. You are telling yourself what you want to write. Like a young child, your subconscious may not explain itself very well or lose site of the pig picture under a mound of odd details so be prepared to look at these ideas from all angles as you search for the secret connections and purpose behind them all.

When you do go back afterward, focus on the people, groups and organizations behind the story. Look at their history and motivations. Look for patterns, who works together with whom and why? Where do they agree and disagree? The heat of your story comes from conflict and conflict comes from strongly motivated characters pursuing incompatible goals or using incompatible methods to achieve them.

At this point, you may already have a full story in your head. If you gone through all the steps so far, you should, at the very least, have the essence of one ready to be put together. All you have to do is find your focus and concentrate the heat.

Next time – Beginning Your Story: Concentrating the Heat

Beginning Your Story: Chasing the Spark

Once you have that spark, you'll need to gather up all the toys (story ideas) that you want to play with. There are probably many methods of mining the subconscious, here are a few that have worked for me.


What is it about the spark the most fascinates you? Does it evoke a particular emotion? Does it promise interesting conflict? Does it explore an interesting point of view?

  1. Write it down in the middle of a blank piece of paper and circle it.
  2. Giving yourself only a few seconds, without thinking, quickly write every idea—no matter what—the first idea provokes.
  3. Afterward, review the results, and draw lines connecting these new ideas to your first idea.
  4. Select the most interesting of the new ideas, circle it and repeat the process.
  5. Continue until you fill the page, run out of ideas or feel that you've got enough ideas to work with.
  6. Finally, look over the results. Which ideas repeat? Which stand out as most interesting or important? Which seem to group together? Which seem to contradict or oppose other ideas?

You may find ideas for characters, conflicts, settings, even snatches of dialog, forming early in the process. Write them down and keep mapping. You may only need to do this process once or you might want to do this several times over several days, each time focusing on different core ideas which the first map produced. When you find all the elements you need to form The Sentence you know you are nearly there.


Close your eyes and imagine your story is finished. You're holding it in your hands. It is exactly the type of story you'd hoped it would be and, fortunately, brilliant reviewers think the exact same thing. (That's why they're brilliant.) Write a review of the finished story. (Which you haven't started yet.) Feel free to describe it as the best, most amazing, most profound work of fiction ever written, but describe why it is. Describe the characters, the themes, the plot, the setting, etc. Describe how it feels to read it. Describe why others should read it. Describe how and why it will change your readers' lives and what they will get out of it. Once you've calmed down, go back and look at it, underlining the ideas you want in your story.


I don't spend a lot of time on Pinterest. In fact I wouldn't have created an account there at all if I hadn't stumbled across some Pinterest boards while doing image searches for a book set in Japan. I tend to use it primarily when researching settings and then after the plot is well established. But there is a long tradition of writers cutting out pictures of people who resemble characters and places to be used as settings. If you are more visually oriented, try starting the creation process by seeking out and collecting images which evoke the feelings and ideas you want your story to convey.

Whichever method(s) you use, before long, you should find yourself with a bunch of fragments that need to be drawn together into a story. (Assuming the story hasn't already assembled itself.)

Next time – Beginning Your Story: Setting the Fire

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Beginning Your Story: Finding the Spark

Beginning Your Story: Setting the Fire(I've been doing some writing about the process of writing, essentially trying to work through my own process while at the same time digesting a lot of reading on the subject. I've been posting these thoughts elsewhere, so I thought I should probably post them here on my much-neglected blog as well.)

Beginning Your Story: Finding the Spark


"Where do you get your inspiration?" From the numerous interviews, articles and blog posts I've read by and about authors, this seems to be one of the questions authors most fear. Some have admitted to having vague or flippant stock answers on hand to deal with it. I suspect many fear this question because they don't know how they do what they do and worry the day may come when they can't manage it when they need to.

The Source

The idea usually bubbles up from the subconscious, a "what if?" question, and not just any "what if" question, but one which captures the writer's imagination and demands to be answered.

Writing coaches have numerous tricks and techniques to tap into that subconscious such as word association games or guided imagery prompts. (If you know of any good ones, please share or post relevant URLs below.) The best approach, particularly when you're feeling frustrated, may be to just not think about it. Go out and do something else, clean the house, run some errands, get out of your normal rut. Relax your mind, watch a new movie or read a new book.

I believe writers are naturally curious people who like to "look behind the scenes," who wonder how things really work, and who like to take ideas apart then put them back together in novel ways. At some point you will, now doubt, find yourself saying, "That's interesting and all, but what if..." and you'll have your story spark.

The Spark

It may start with an interesting character: A crown prince who discovers he's actually a commoner raised to become a sacrifice to save the true heir to the throne. How will he react? Kingdom of Shadow

Or an interesting situation: To save his first love, a shy Japanese teenage boy must prove to a Shinigami (Japanese death god) that love exists by making it fall in love with him, without his girlfriend finding out. How might he do it? Courting Death

Or an Interesting setting: A secret war taking place in our own world between two strange supernatural forces that grant mysterious agents supernatural powers. It includes intrigue and espionage, rival shadow societies competing for lost or forbidden knowledge and a spreading curse that involves the undead and stranger things from other dimensions. What kind of things might happen here? The Awakened

Unconsciously or consciously, exposing yourself to interesting new ideas and asking what if, stirs the coals that produce the creative spark. Once you've identified it and learned to recognize it, you need to chase it.

Next time - Beginning Your Story: Chasing the Spark

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Plotting Part 3: Fleshing Out Your Story

Since it is a lot to remember to think about, I wrote a little javascript application to walk through the development of the logline, the story's theme, the 8 key transition scenes and to help develop it all into a full outline. You may find the page at:

Below are some additional considerations, divided up by story part, to help flesh out the rest of the scenes and make sure everything is covered.

Part 1

  1. How do you introduce protagonist? Is he sympathetic?
  2. Do you demonstrate his primary traits through his actions?
  3. Do the descriptions slow things down? Interrupt the story?
  4. Do you show his greatest desire? Is it the same as the external plot goal? Does he think it will solve his personal problems?
  5. Do you show his greatest Need? Does his desire conflict with this?(Will The Truth change his greatest desire to something else or will it change the means of achieving his greatest desire?)

  6. Does he already want to change his circumstances/setting? Why doesn't he?
  7. Do you demonstrate his belief in The Lie? Does he come to believe The Lie as a result of something that happens at the beginning of the story?
  8. Do you show how his past caused this belief? Hint at it? Should you? (Is the backstory significant enough to motivate the protagonist through the story?)
  9. Do you show that belief causing/could cause problems for the protagonist by creating a self-limitation, or weakness in him, or generally making him unhappy?
  10. Do you show The Lie becoming a problem for him at the start, or in the Inciting Event or the 1st Plot Point?
  11. Do you show that belief causing/could cause problems for others?
  12. Do you show him defending The Lie/refusing to change?
  13. Do you show his capacity to live by The Truth if only he believed it?
  14. Do you show the setting supporting that belief in The Lie?
  15. Do you highlight those parts of the setting that will change or appear to change in the protagonist's perceptions as a result of The Truth, or (if he does not return to the same setting at the end) which will contrast with the setting created by The Truth?
  16. Do you foreshadow The Truth, how he will learn about it, it's capacity to defeat The Lie, or how it may be tied to his greatest Need?

  17. Do you show the protagonist doing something that leads to him becoming involved in the story?
  18. Do you show him rejecting the opportunity to get involved in the story? (Resisting change.)
  19. Do you show him beginning to grow aware and uncomfortable with some of The Lie's effects by the end of Part 1? How does his use of The Lie begin to change?
  20. Do you show the protagonist making a fateful decision that ultimately leads to the 1st Plot Point? How does it result from the events in Part 1?
  21. Do you show how the events of the 1st Plot Point changes his situation? Does it change the setting or move him to another setting? Is the impact big enough? Does it "destroy his world"?
  22. Do you show him accepting or rejecting this change? Does he consider this a good or bad thing?
  23. Do you show him making a determined decision as a result of the 1st Plot Point? What is his new Goal? Was his prior goal replace or changed?
  24. Do you show how The Lie will continue to cause big trouble for him in his new situation as a result of the 1st Plot Point? 

Part 2

  1. Do you show the protagonist continuing to act according to The Lie?
  2. Do you show The Lie continuing to hamper him?
  3. Do you show his ideas about The Lie changing as he tries to hold onto it?
  4. Do you show him managing to get closer to the goal despite these setbacks?
  5. Do you show how this also pushes the thing he needs farther away?
  6. Do you show him gaining skills/knowledge/allies/resources (intentionally or not) he will need for the second half of the story?
  7. Does he see the power of The Truth demonstrated and how life might be following it?
  8. Do you reveal something new about the antagonist in the 1st Reversal?
  9. Do you reveal something now about the protagonist? 
The Turning Point/Midpoint

  1. Does a dramatic event happen at the midpoint of the story?
  2. Do you show the protagonist learning something about himself?
  3. Do you show him learning something about the antagonist or the nature of the conflict?
  4. Do you show his behavior changing as a result of these two revelations?
  5. Do you show him taking initiative in the conflict?
  6. Do you show how he begins to use The Truth to take initiative?
  7. Do you show how The Lie continues to hold him back? 

Part 3

  1. Do you show the protagonist beginning to use The Truth to resist The Lie and overcome obstacles?
  2. Do you show The Truth forcing him to change? What does it cost him? What does he give up?
  3. Do you mirror an event in the 2nd half, similar to one in the first, where the protagonist acts according to The Truth where before he had acted according to The Lie? (To show his character growth.)
  4. Do you show him continuing to hold onto The Lie, though it makes things difficult? What mistakes does he make because of it?
  5. Do you show the protagonist's renewed determination after the 2nd reversal? What did he lose? How does the antagonist cause it?
  6. Do you clearly show The Truth? Does a character explicitly state it?
  7. Does the protagonist start to betray The Truth and claim what he most wants by using The Lie? What does he give up?
  8. Do you show how the protagonist's victory is turned to defeat? How is the antagonist responsible?
  9. Do you show how The Lie made this possible?
  10. Does the protagonist choose the Truth at the end? How does it symbolically cost him his life? What important aspect of it does he lose?

Part 4

  1. How does the protagonist's choice continue to make him suffer--both mentally and physically?
  2. How does it make pursuit of his goal more difficult?
  3. Do you show the protagonist questioning his choice?
  4. Do you show him being tempted, bullied, mocked for following The Truth? How else might his belief be challenged?
  5. By what small act can he show he is a completely different person than before?
  6. Does the tension/action build throughout Part 4?

  7. How does the protagonist's personal revelation lead to or empower him to face and overcome the antagonist? Does it come before or during the climax?
  8. Does it work the other way around with the confrontation leading to the final revelation?
  9. What does he do to defeat the antagonist that he could not do before embracing The Truth?
  10. Does the protagonist get the thing he desires in addition to the thing he needs? Does he sacrifice it?Does his reason for wanting it change or perhaps it just doesn't matter to him anymore? Does focusing on the thing he needs empower him to also obtain the thing he desires?

  11. Is the resolution short, sweet and soon after the climax? Does it drag on too long?
  12. Does it tie off all the important loose ends? (Assuming you didn't deliberately leave any dangling for sequels to address)
  13. Do you clearly answer the thematic question? Does a character explicitly state the theme?
  14. Do you show how the protagonist's new situation contrasts with his starting situation? Has he returned to the beginning location?
  15. Does the ending mirror the beginning in some way? Does he demonstrate his new character?
  16. Do you give the reader a sense of how life will continue for the main characters?
  17. Does it end on the right emotional note?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Plotting Part 2: Beginning Your Plot

The 8 Key Scenes (with an Optional 9th)

Each of the four story parts begin and end with an important event that marks the transition from one story phase to the next. Add in two special scenes which occur in the middle of Part 2 and Part 3 and you have 8 key scenes to shape out the skeleton of your story.

The Opening Scene—This is one of the most important scenes of the story and usually one of the hardest to get right. It has to let us know what kind of story to expect and hook us with a story question that makes us wonder what is about to happen next. Ideally it should introduce the protagonist, or the antagonist, or possibly a side character that will connect the two—to give us someone to identify with or care about. Ideally, it should also introduce the main conflict of the story, or at least foreshadow it, or another conflict that ties into the theme (Inner Plot) of the story—so that we'll wonder what happens next. While it's doing all this, it also needs to begin to introduce the setting and the tone of the story.

The First Plot Point—After spending the first 25% of the story trying to avoid or deny the main conflict, or just being trapped in his lie, the protagonist is forced to act when something changes his world forever. He may get slapped in the face with the story conflict, or even be given a positive opportunity that sets him on course to the story conflict, but he is ultimately forced to make a choice to go somewhere or do something to set things right. Even if all the protagonist can do is try and make a new life for himself in a new place or under new circumstances he cannot keep his current life.

The First Reversal (1st Pinch Point)—After spending the first half of Part 2 just trying to figure out how to respond to the 1st Plot Point, the antagonist steps in at the 37% mark to wreck things again. Any progress the protagonist has made is probably lost—or worse—discovered to be harmfully misguided. This emphasizes the fact that the protagonist can't just adapt to the problem but must face it directly if he is to ever find peace/happiness again. It will usually reveal the problem to be bigger, more powerful or more complicated than first thought and that acting upon The Lie is not only not helping the protagonist to reach his Goal, but actually making things more difficult. If the First Plot Point forces the protagonist to commit to action, the First Reversal ups the tension and urges him forward.

The Mid Point—Exactly halfway through the story, everything changes again. Like the First Plot Point, the Mid Point marks the beginning of Part 3 with a major change in the protagonist's situation where the protagonist switches from defense to offense. I have heard it said that if the First Plot Point was positive, then the Mid Point should be negative and vice versa. Either way, the protagonist finally begins to understand The Truth, both of the general nature of the conflict and of himself. He won't have given up on The Lie yet, but he will begin to see that he needs The Truth to solve his problem. From now until the Third Plot Point, the protagonist will begin to take charge of the situation and set things right (insert training montage here) using the resources gained in Part 2. While his inner conflict between his dependence on The Lie and his need for The Truth will begin to fade as he leans on The Truth (he may even begin to resist the effects of The Lie), he will be forced to make an ultimate choice between the two at the end of Part 3.

The Second Reversal (2nd Pinch Point)—Having begun to understand and use the power of The Truth, the protagonist is forced to face the cost of continuing the conflict. Halfway through Part 3 (62% of the way through the story) the Second Reversal appears, where the Antagonist strikes back and the protagonist pays a big price. (If the protagonist has a mentor that is going to die, this is where they bite it.) From now on, the protagonist continues progressing with renewed--even fierce--determination.

The Third Plot Point—At the end of Part 3, 75% through the story, the protagonist was at the final point of victory where his Goal was in reach. All he had to do was turn his back on The Truth and act according to The Lie. (Feel the power of the dark side!) He may have even started to do just that, but then disaster strikes as the Third Plot Point arrives. The antagonist engineers a major disaster and the protagonist, knowing he can no longer merely use The Truth while clinging to The Lie, is forced to choose. He can reject The Lie, which may cost him the Goal he had been fighting for, or reject The Truth, which will cost him the one thing he most needs. If this is a positive character arc story, he will be forced to recognize how The Lie has failed him and reject it, sometimes almost reflexively. This illustrates that the protagonist's values have clearly changed because to reject The Truth would be to sacrifice these things he now values. From now on until the climax, that choice will be tested as everything else the Protagonist once valued may be stripped away to prove his commitment to The Truth.

The Climax—Having been stripped of everything but The Truth, and starting Part 4 at the lowest of low points emotionally, the protagonist pushes straight toward the final confrontation with the antagonist. Enduring a final series of challenges to his commitment to The Truth (sometimes including the mockery of bystanders or even urging from allies who believe the fight is lost or the cost too high to continue) the protagonist confronts the source of his problems directly and all the cards are laid out on the table. Ideally the climax of both the inner and outer plots will occur together at the end of the story. Often that final revelation of The Truth in the inner plot will empower the protagonist to defeat the antagonist in the outer plot. With a sense of inevitability, and yet still an element of surprise, the protagonist completely overpowers the antagonist and fully appreciates his new relationship with The Truth.

The Resolution—It might not be a full scene. It might only be a paragraph or two, or even a couple of lines—though if your name is J.R.R.Tolkien it might run on for chapters—but the resolution is no less important than any other scene. This is the reader's emotional payoff for enduring the struggle. It shows the results/reward of living by The Truth by indicating how the protagonist and his circumstances have changed as a result of his decision to embrace The Truth. It's also a final chance to answer any remaining story questions which may have gone unanswered in part 3 and part 4.

The Backstory—Your optional 9th scene, is an important event in the protagonist's past (often traumatic) that convinced the protagonist of The Lie. Screenwriters sometimes refer to this as "the character's ghost" because it haunts him, reminding him of The Lie while motivating him to live by it. If the event is dramatic, it may be shown in flashback—especially at the end of part 3 where the protagonist wrestles with refusing The Lie. If it is important to the outer plot, it might be used as an opening scene. It may also only be referred to indirectly or remain a complete mystery (to the reader) throughout the story.

Next time—Plotting Part 3: Fleshing Out Your Story, with an extra bonus feature.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Plotting Part 1: How Story Works

You’ve come up with an idea for a story, brainstormed all the cool elements you’d like to include and mapped out the relationships of the “good guys,” the “bad guys” and everyone in between so that you know how their motives all differ from each other (providing conflict) and how their goals are at cross purposes (so that they can’t avoid each other). You’ve even come up with your core sentence, determining the heart of the story you plan to write, and the main themes you’ll be dealing with.

So how do you actually turn that into a story?

The Purpose and Function of Story
All stories are fundamentally about conflict. Two (or more) forces, each trying to change the world around them in contradictory or at least incompatible ways, come into conflict. The strengths and weaknesses of each are weighed and the implications of each are considered, and a winner is finally chosen and the results are projected.  In a way it’s almost like a scientific experiment. In fact, some years ago, I rambled on my much-neglected blog about how I thought storytelling could be considered mankind’s first science. ( I’ve learned a lot more about how stories work since then, but I am just as convinced now as I was then that this is true. In fact you can pretty much see it in the story’s shape.

2 Plots, 3 Stories, 4 Parts
Every complete story has two plots which I refer to as the Outer Plot and the Inner Plot.

The Outer Plot – is simply the sequence of external events the provokes the protagonist into acting. The outer plot goes something like:

Part 1: A problem occurs which the protagonist may first try to avoid or deny until it affects him personally by changing his circumstances. By the end of Part 1 he cannot go back to anything like his old life until he fixes the problem.

Part 2: The protagonist first struggles to avoid or fend of the problem’s effects or the antagonist’s attacks while trying to figure out the true nature of the problem. The protagonist will be gathering (sometimes unknowingly) the knowledge/weapons/skills/allies/resources /etc. he will  need to ultimately face the antagonist/problem, but probably won’t be able to attack the antagonist/problem directly at this point. If he does, he will fail badly because he is completely unprepared.

Part 3: At the mid-point of the story, the protagonist has gained some insight into the true nature of the problem or a weakness of the antagonist and formulates a method or plan to attack. The protagonist goes on the offense, making progress toward his goal while paying increasing costs at the same time.

Part 4: After having been stripped of nearly all of his resources, the protagonist comes face to face with the antagonist and, while at the very point of losing, pulls one last trick out of his hat in a desperate all-or-nothing attempt to defeat the antagonist.

The Inner Plot—While the protagonist is dealing with the conflict of the Outer Plot, this is mirrored by a similar struggle taking place within the protagonist. The the outer struggle tests the protagonist’s abilities and methods to overcome the external conflict, while the inner struggle tests his values and his understanding of himself, his relationships and place in the world. How he responds to this inner struggle and how he feels about the results determines which of the three basic story types or Character Arcs the story falls into.

The Positive Change Arc: The protagonist starts out with a misunderstanding about himself, his world or life in general. This may sometime be caused by or associated with some significant past personal event. We shall refer to this misconception, or aspect that must change, as The Lie.

The Lie leads to a weakness or a fear which the protagonist must overcome in order to obtain the thing he needs (The Truth) to be truly happy. Unfortunately, the protagonist finds himself in a situation where facing The Lie may cause him to sacrifice his Goal, or the thing he wants because he thinks it will make him happy. The Inner Plot is all about how the protagonist discovers the power of The Truth to overcome The Lie and then sets himself free by learning to commit to it. This is the most common inner plot and is often used with an “everyman” protagonist who functions as a stand-in for the audience.

The Flat Change Arc: The protagonist already knows The Truth but his commitment to it and his ability to apply it is being tested. Everyone else, however, lives according to The Lie—or variations of The Lie. While the outer plot remains unchanged, the inner plot almost seems as if it consists of only Part 3 and Part 4 of the 4 plot parts. If the objective of the positive change arc is for the protagonist to solve the problem by discovering The Truth and change himself, the objective of the flat change arc is for the protagonist to save everyone else by demonstrating the power of The Truth. This is the next most common inner plot and is often used in action hero, superhero or suffering hero type stories.

The Negative Change Arc: The protagonist not only doesn’t know The Truth, he never learns it. As The Lie pushes him further and further from The Truth, the protagonist clings to The Lie even tighter, determined to pay any price to achieve his Goal or go down fighting. He usually fails to accomplish his Goal, but if he does, it is an empty and meaningless victory for which he’s sacrificed everything that could have made him truly happy. He usually fails to see how The Lie has harmed him, but even if he does he will still be powerless to comprehend or implement The Truth. These stories are tragic cautionary tales where the protagonist destroys himself and often the people around him by acting according to The Lie.

Stay tuned for... Plotting Part 2: Beginning Your Plot (The 8 Key Scenes, with an optional 9th)