To Plot a Story – Guest Post by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Deborah Lyn Stanley author artist editorToday’s guest post is from writer, artist, and editor Deborah Lyn Stanley. She is a retired project manager who now devotes her time to writing, art and care-giving mentally impaired seniors. She has published a collection of 24 artists’ interviews titled the Artists Interview Series. The series published as monthly articles for an online news network, can also be found on her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley – Writers Blog. Her “How-To” articles have appeared in magazines.

To Plot a Story

First, let’s talk about our preferred method of writing.

Do you like to write freely with little more than a main idea as your direction? Or do you prefer to outline your story or novel first, then allow your fingers to fly over the keyboard?

I find that I write more clearly and efficiently if I have a plan. When I just “go for it” with little more than a main idea, my rewrite is so laborious that I procrastinate to avoid tackling it. So, I prefer to outline the basics of what I want to say, and let creativity fly within that framework.

Considering what plot is can be confusing. Okay, so plot is “what happens,” why then does the discussion immediately branch out to character development, inciting incident, tension building to the climax, etc., etc., etc.?

The answer is…

Story plot and story structure always go together. You cannot have one without the other.

Plot is what happens in a story. In essence, plots are the events that move a character from one point to another shaping the story with conflict: inward and outward, emotional and physical. Each event brings an element of tension.

What should be the first step to developing the story plot? Knowing what we want to say—then theme and the creation of a main character, the protagonist.

man and woman plotting a story

The protagonist needs an intense goal with obstacles in the way of the goal. He or she must overcome each obstacle to reach the goal. The path through each event is dynamic as internal and external conflicts arise. This drives the action of the plot forward and grabs our reader’s interest in such a way that they don’t put the book down.

Writing a story involves creativity and discovery. Ask yourself questions to uncover the events, the setting, and the conflicts. Ask, ask, and ask some more. Follow the answers and keep asking why? Important connections will follow from this way to discovery.

A one-sentence premise is essential to a strong story. The premise will serve as a map to guide and focus the writing. It is a tough job to condense the story idea to one sentence, but it’s important and will be used again and again as you pitch your book to agents, publishers, and consumers.

Plotting is an involved journey. Have fun with it!

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Frustrated and overwhelmed with trying to get published? I can help put an end to that. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com for more details.


  1. […] last week’s “To Plot a Story,” guest Deborah Lyn Stanley stated, “A one-sentence premise is essential to a strong […]

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