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This topic sheet was originally devised for the Exciting Writing Foundation Course. There is a table of links to other teaching resources towards the bottom of this page.

 

The importance of plot
and What makes a good plot?

 

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY "PLOT" AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT?

  • "It's what happens — the story."
  • "It's the controlling force that drives the story."
  • "It's a structure and a sequence of events that move the story from beginning to end."
  • "It’s a logical means to originate ideas on which to hang characters."
  • "It’s the vortex — everything centres around it and comes of it — it’s fill of twists and turns."
  • "Thrillers usually follow a set pattern: set-up, detective work, climax, denouement."
  • "Work that is too formulaic is unsatisfying, e.g. Mills & Boon."
  • "A beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order."
  • "Must a plot have ‘a beginning, a middle and an end?’" "Not necessarily."
  • "Plot is not essential — consider plays like Waiting for Godot." "A play/novel might have an objective rather than a plot."
  • "A plot is the backbone of the piece— the main element that makes the reader/audience want to stay until the end."
  • "The outcome of the plot is the resolution of the issue that keeps you in your seat."
  • "Plot is what makes something literature as opposed to real life — whereas real life meanders on, plot is specifically structured."

 

WHAT MAKES A GOOD PLOT?

  • It comprises good scenes in which "good characters" make "good speeches" based on "good ideas".
  • It has a strong story-line.
  • It includes an intrigue or mystery that readers/listeners want to solve.
  • It is clear but not simplistic or predictable — easy to follow, yet engaging enough to make people want to read or hear again.
  • It uses contrasting settings, moods, characters, etc as a means of evoking readers’/listeners’ memories and playing upon their emotions.
  • It is credible and consistent in terms of style, characters and locations and how they relate to the action.
  • It includes "surprises", for example in terms of unexpected events or characters behaving unexpectedly.
  • It includes some elements of conflict — perhaps resolved — perhaps not.
  • It includes at least some elements of originality.
  • It conveys a clear message or messages to the reader/listener, even if the message of the piece is an unresolved issue.
  • It does not dominate the other features of the piece, such as characterisation.
  • The key elements of the plot are memorable.
Email Paddy Gormley Telephone +4420 or 020 8319 4276