Fundamental Plot Development
All stories, whether it’s a short story or Anna Karenina, revolve around conflict and basic plot structure. I call it, The Four “Cs” of Writing, although other writers may call it something different. It’s the formula I use with every story I write, and it works each and every time.
The four C’s of writing
Who is your story about? Without characters there is no story to tell. I begin my stories with my lead protagonist(s). However, I don’t consider this a hard and fast rule. Depending on your genre, you may wish to begin your story with a minor character or even your antagonist. Whichever way you go, the plot revolves around the characters and what they do.
The meat and bones of the story. It’s all about the conflict because conflict creates the drama. Imagine a story about a happy couple who never argue or disagree. Nothing bad ever happens to them. They live a long, happy, charmed life where nothing ever goes wrong. The end.
Now let’s take that same couple. He tells her he has to work late that night, but he arrives home in the wee hours of the morning. She smells another woman’s perfume on his clothing and sees lipstick on his collar. Care to guess what’s coming next? So, which story would make the most compelling reading? The one about the perfect couple whose lives never go wrong? Or the one where the husband is about to get his butt kicked? Plotlines revolve around conflict, and how the characters react to it.
The high point of the story. The punch line. They argue. She grabs a lamp off the nightstand, and in a fit of blinding rage, she coldcocks him over the head. He falls to the floor, unconscious and bleeding. Meanwhile the neighbors heard them fighting and called the cops. The police soon arrive and bust down the door. He’s lying dead on the floor while his blood, and her fingerprints, are all over the lamp.
This is when loose ends are tied up and you end the story. She’s hauled off to jail, goes on trial, and ends up convicted. Since I write stand alone novels I resolve the entire conflict and leave my readers with a definitive, satisfying ending. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule either. Some authors may prefer a more ambiguous ending, so they might end the story with a hung jury. Those authors who are writing a series will certainly want to leave something unresolved to continue in the next book.
So there you have it. The four basic components of plot development and storytelling.