Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place

How to Thicken the Plot….


I have been toying with the idea of pulling out of my archives the chapters of a novel I started about seven years ago.  I made it through eight chapters and then realized that I had written myself into a corner.  I had no idea on where to take the story and how to resolve it in a satisfying way.  I just chucked it all aside.

When I originally wrote the chapters, I was working from the position of letting the plot develop itself.  It is the idea that I have seen promoted by various writers and writing experts wherein the novelist intuitively knows where the plot should go and, like magic, the words just flow from the pen or keyboard in the direction of the plot. 

That position did not work very well for me. 

On the opposite end is the theory that the writer must very precisely set out the plot before starting to write.  There are tons of tools on the internet to support this manner of writing.  There are storyboarding tips and chapter analysis worksheets to download, and even software packages that somehow help you develop your plot with a click of a mouse.   A lot of folks have a lot to say about developing the formulae for successful novel.   Hmmmm…..I find the idea of developing a formula plot a bit constraining and not apt to produce a story that is original and unique.

I remember a poet commenting about the process of writing poetry.  In starting a poem sometimes “You set out for church, and find yourself at the dog races….”  (Naomi Shihab Nye)  So maybe the answer for me is somewhere in between.  I can attempt to lay out a plot, but be open for course corrections as my intuition directs me.   

So maybe I will open up those archives and give the novel another go.

If there are any fiction writers reading this, may I ask how you develop your plots?   Please comment below.  I am very interested in learning about your process. 



12 thoughts on “How to Thicken the Plot….

  1. First I allow myself to become well acquainted with the protagonist, I begin by placing her in a location. It could be a coffee shop, on a mountainside, or in a home. Then I create a situation, and from then on I allow her to lead me. I do not plot ahead. That way doesn’t work for me at all. I have had five novels published using this method so it works well for me, not saying though that it would for everybody.


  2. Well , I find myself in exactly the same position as youself! Which is not much help for you now, but maybe we can play this one out together!
    Like you too I have always written by just writing….and like you I find myself getting to a place where I am stuck and unable to figure a way forward. Lately I have decided to give short romantic stories a whirl! Very quickly I realized that I need to begin with some structure, a basic outline of plot. So I worked out a plot including the number of words I need to write in each section (these stories are to be sent out to specific destinations and are being written within the mags guidelines).I also need to ensure that the story progresses through dialogue with only small sections of intermediary narrative. Really and truly I am on one hell of a learning curve here!
    I am looking upon all of this as my own personally designed course in writing creative fiction! I love the fact that I am doing it like this,following my own personal inclinations and waiting to see where it all goes. Maybe some of my stories will be published; most likely they won’t; but right now I feel as if I am back in the days when we all lived and loved and wrote our way home under L’Enchanteur’s guidance! It can’t get better than that!! 🙂
    My next blog post is going to be on the theme of writing with the structure in mind. I shall look through all the info I have on hand and make recommendations of books, web sites, etc. I am doing it this way cos I want to learn how. Maybe we can learn together?!! 🙂 xxx

  3. Hi Lori, I found this paragraph from a review of the following book:
    ‘Writing Fiction, the Practical Guide’. See more at this link. Might be worth investigating…am thinking about it….but funds are low so if I pick one book it has to be good!!

    Here’s the quote:
    “The chapter on plot is encouraging because it asserts that plot need not be predetermined. Indeed, the author believes that plot emerges as the writing process moves forward, that plot is organic. Plot and character are closely intertwined. The goal of the protagonist will often give the writer his plot, with some obstacles thrown in for good measure. The author believes in the classic tripartite story structure of beginning, middle and end, and explains the role of each.”

  4. Hi Lori, I have a story I’ve been working on for a few years now myself. It started out much in the same way your novel did, though in my case it was meant to be a short story. It was very raw and rough, and needed development, but I liked the core idea so much I decided to turn it into a full-blown novel. So I began to make background notes for it. I wrote about the country and culture, its geography and history. Through that and descriptions of the main and secondary characters parts of a deeper plot began to surface. This seems to have worked well for the most part. However, I find myself stumped on how to develop the main characters’ plot further than the basic idea I’ve centered on. Perhaps we can have an online support/critique circle?

  5. I guess I work more like Vi – but it all happens in my head, for the most part. The hardest part for me is the physical act of writing it out. I need a computer that can work from my thoughts. Grumble. But seriously, I have seen a lot of programs lately for planning and organizing novels. I can’t outline for the life of me, but some people thrive on it.

  6. I am not a fiction writer but long ago a wise woman told me that one must listen to her people and let them tell her the way. Wishing you all success, Fran

  7. I find it easier to write if I have some idea in my mind where I want my story to go. The plot evolves as a means of getting of my characters to realise something new about themselves or about the world they live in. For a longer sustained piece of fiction I make a lot of notes and write a synopsis which outlines events and and situations that will lead the character to the final revelations. I use this as a guideline to refer back when I get stuck but if my original synopsis proves too limiting I discard it and write brief notes about the new direction the story is taking. Keeping the final outcomes of the story in mind is more important to me than writing a detailed plot line.

    • Seems to me that there’s a lot of us writing novels in SFC! Maybe we should organize ourselves somehow into a group. What do you think??

  8. I have so many unfinished novels – even when I know where the story is going, I grind to a halt. I have managed to finish one novella by writing it as a series of short stories instead of chapters, so maybe I just have a short attention span? It’s a bit disjointed of course, but at least I finally have something to work on. Fiction is so hard.

  9. What a lively discussion with plenty to think about. Great post Lori.

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