Monday, December 2, 2013

Plotting Along: A Diagram of Key Plot Points

I have always had trouble with plotting, so I’m a big fan of collecting working solutions to planning the plot. Today I’m posting the latest in my personal collection of plot diagrams, something I’ve put together based on the best plot diagrams I’ve found and used. Here it is with some explanation…



The black line at the top is, of course, the classic Aristotelian 3-act structure, where Act 2 is twice as long as Acts 1 and 3, and the form is set-up, confrontation, and resolution.

Below that in green are the stages of the Hero’s Journey as outlined by Christopher Vogler in his now-classic writer’s guide The Writer’s Journey, based upon the research of Joseph Campbell.

In brown are the turning points defined for screenplays by the late Syd Field; they also apply perfectly to novels. You can find out more about these points in his books and DVDs here.

In blue, I’ve placed the plot line defined by Martha Alderson in her Plot Whisperer books and workbooks. What I particularly like about this plot line is that it shows how tension increases to two high points, the Crisis and the Climax.

And in red, I’ve added the 14 “Signpost Scenes” defined by James Scott Bell; check out his Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure. I like the way that these signpost scene definitions are more colloquial than Vogler’s and add a few nuances, like “care package” and “pet the dog.”


I hope this diagram and these links are useful to you!

21 comments:

Michele Corriel said...

Wow, Janet, that's fantastic! Thanks.

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Michele!

Julia Karr said...

This is great, Janet! Thanks for putting it together!

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Julia! I hope it's a help!

Martha Alderson said...

Hi, Janet! This is great. Thank you for including me. I remember our time together fondly. Happy plotting....

Genetta said...

Janet, you're a genius to put this all together on one chart! Thanks for sharing it with us!

Carol Bruce Collett said...

Thank you!

Carol Bruce Collett said...

Thank you!

mima said...

Now that's what I call a holiday gift! Thanks, Janet, and wishing you a wonderful holiday season:-D

Janet Fox said...

Martha - delighted to include you. You are my primary go-to for plotting!!

Genetta, Carol, and Mima - thanks!!

Tracy Barrett said...

This is terrific, Janet!

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Tracy! I'll upload to my website today so that folks can grab it if they like.

annawritedraw said...

Lovely to have it all in one place for comparison. Thank you!

Janet Fox said...

You're welcome!

I've posted this as a download on my website: http://janetsfox.com/faqs/a-plot-paradigm-compilation/

I hope that helps!

Meredith Davis said...

I love to collect different plotting devices, too, Janet, but I've never tried to combine them all on one document, this is great, thank you for sharing!

Janet Fox said...

You are so welcome, Meredith!

Linnea Heaney said...

I just worked through this journey again with a rewrite of my first novel. Excellent Summary!

Linnea Heaney said...

I just worked through this journey again with a rewrite of my first novel. Excellent Summary!

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, J! I love visual aids...

Writer said...

The chart is amazing Janet! I'm in the process of translating my novel into a screenplay and this really helps!

Janet Fox said...

Thank you so much!! The BEST screenplay advice comes from Syd Field. So sad that he is now gone; but his brilliance lives on.