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Humanities LibreTexts

14: Crafting the Plot

  • Page ID
    39592
  • Every story you tell will be creating a world where you present a problem and over the course of the story you solve it. In the process of solving the problem the hero is transformed and through the character’s journey the audience learns an important essential truth. However, in order to tell this story you need to first chart the course of events that will take place so that you can maximize the impact of your narrative.

    First begin by establishing your Inciting Incident. Ask yourself “what happens that sets the play in motion?” Then ask yourself “What should be the climax or final event?” Once you have these two items figured out, you will know where your story truly begins and what you are building to. The story of your play is the journey from Inciting Incident to Climax.

    Create an outline where you have your Inciting Incident on one end and the Climax on the other. If you are creating a full length play then you will need roughly 7-10 scenes. Scene 1 is where you introduce the world of your play, the main characters, establish a normal day for the characters, and at the end of the scene introduce the conflict with the Inciting Incident. Your final scene is the final confrontation of Hero and Villain and the Denouement or falling action where things return to as normal as possible after the events of the play. All of the scenes between are the events that build in tension and lead to the inevitable climax.

    Crafting your plot allows you to sidestep writers block, troubleshoot problems in advance, and build tension throughout your story. When you know what needs to be accomplished in the scene you are able to write to that objective and since you have already established a strong intention for each character, once you set them in the scene they will move toward that objective and the scene will write itself. If you experience problems you can take a break from writing the scene since you already know where the scene ends and you can begin writing a later scene and stay productive.

    The Following are 2 possible guides helping you craft your plot.

    Example 1

    • Act 1/Scene 1: Exposition, Foreshadowing, Inciting Incident.
      • Establish characters, basic relationships, dreams/goals
      • World of the play: Rules, Givens, Setting
      • Conflict is introduced
      • Inciting incident happens
    • Scene 2: Rising action step 1
      • Relationships are further defined
      • New relationships begin to form based out of conflict
      • Conflict is furthered and additional obstacles are introduced
      • Introduction of additional characters
    • Scene 3: Rising action step 2
      • Conflict is furthered
      • Relationships continue to develop
      • Protagonist is able to form an idea of how to overcome the obstacle
    • Scene 4: Rising Action step 3
      • Stronger relationships begin to get stronger and the weak ones get weaker.
      • At least one obstacle is overcome
      • Conflict is furthered as dark twist is revealed
    • Act 2/ Scene 5: Rising Action step 4
      • Relationships continue to develop stronger relationships are formed and weaker ones continue to deteriorate.
      • Protagonist is able to overcome multiple obstacles
      • Conflict is furthered as the Antagonist becomes aware of the threat.
    • Scene 6: Rising Action step 5
      • Conflict is furthered as Antagonist introduces additional obstacles
      • Protagonist feels defeated
    • Scene 7: Rising Action step 6
      • Relationships strengthen through character revelations
      • Turning point as protagonist decides to continue fighting
    • Scene 8: Climax and Denouement
      • Conflict rises and reaches a climax as Protagonist and Antagonist collide.
      • Conflict is resolved

    Example 2

    Act 1

    • Scene 1: Setup/Catalyst
      • Opening Image
      • Set up / Prologue / Exposition
      • Catalyst or Inciting Incident
    • Scene 2: Rising Action
      • Debate
      • Decision
      • Fun and Games or New World is introduced
    • Scene 3: Rising Action/Fun and Games
      • New Characters are introduced
      • New world explored and obstacle is introduced
      • Stakes raise and conflict is furthered
    • Scene 4: Rising Action/ Fun and Games
      • New obstacles are introduced
      • New world is explored
      • Hero becomes aware of potential
    • Scene 5: Midpoint
      • An obstacle is overcome or almost overcome
      • Hero unlocks potential
      • Dark turn happens that raises the stakes for the hero

    Intermission

    Act 2

    • Scene 1: Bad Guys Close In or Tensions Rise
      • Villain becomes aware of Hero and begins to set additional obstacles
      • Relationships begin to fracture
    • Scene 2: All is Lost
      • Hero receives crushing defeat and relationships are torn apart
    • Scene 3: Dark night of the Soul
      • Hero contemplates giving up the journey or ending their life
      • Side character counsels Hero and reminds them of the lessons learned throughout the journey and tremendous cost of failure.
      • Hero finds strength in the interaction and from within and decides to confront the villain directly
    • Scene 4: Finale
      • Hero and Villain meet in final conflict
      • Climax is reached
    • Scene 5: Denouement or Resolution
      • Conflict is resolved and things return to as normal as possible
      • A new normal is established

    Playwriting Activity 1

    • Choose a conflict, setting, and characters for your play.
    • Draw a line on a sheet of paper that runs from one end of the page to the other. This will be your timeline.
    • Choose an inciting incident and climax for your plot and place them at opposite ends of your timeline.
    • Follow the examples above and chart a logical progression that leads you from inciting incident to climax maximizing the growth or transformation of your hero character.
    • Evaluate whether any events need to shift.
    • Separate your events into scenes.
    • Begin writing.
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