Plot DevelopmentDid my book idea come from a long lost relative dying and leaving me a fortune? Unfortunately no… But the idea of how a person may struggle with that journey shaped a lot of the story. With a few modern twists and a little imagination, I took a historically worn topic (inheritance) and shaped my book The Heir to the Unexpected into a relatable experience for the reader.

I’m constantly reminding myself that my readers are making a commitment to invest time and energy to read my stories. If I write a book that’s a waste of their time and attention, I know they will not be opening another story by D.C. Sumrall again in the near future. So, I need to factor in my readers’ enjoyment with the story I want to tell, my own emotional investment, the actual entertainment-value, and how all of those things will co-exist as I start building a plot structure from there.

From a plot development standpoint, I’ve found the Freytag Pyramid to be a decent guiding principal to start with. Developed in 1863 by Gustav Freytag, his Pyramid is a 5-act dramatic structure that, with a little creative freedom, can easily anchor a conceptual story flow into a solid plot-line.


 Freytag Pyramid Freytag Pyramid

  1. Exposition- The opening… Who are players? What is setting?
  2. Rising action- The conflict or the build up… What is threat? What is the desire?
  3. Climax- the final conflict…  What is action? What is the result of the build up?
  4. Falling action- post climax… What are the immediate consequences? Where are we going?
  5. Denouement- resolution… How do the character move on? How does the day end?

While I would never recommend that anyone compromise their characters’ motives or personalities to a formulated story-telling methodology, I do think the Freytag Pyramid can help a writer better ground their characters’ humanistic needs, wants, desires (and the consequences thereof!) in the overarching story.

Not everyone though has their entire plot outlined when they begin to write though, myself included. While I know the general tale I want to tell,  I’m constantly scribbling ideas down as I go to better align my stories to my audience. Over a period of time, I start looking at how these ideas can be grown or expanded upon to inform a more defined plot. It’s a priceless collection of reference points on the days that I’m experiencing writer’s/creative block. More on that to come in future posts!

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