What’s the Plot for this Scene?

What’s the plot for this scene? What drama can you add to two people out on a trail ride? Below is my inspiration.

The top arc of the sun just clears the horizon as we trot down the deserted country lane. A woodpecker drums on the snag of a dead ash.

Dad hasn’t said a word to me since I asked to ride with him this morning. Maybe he thinks it’s weird since I haven’t ridden with him in months. Or is it a year? Maybe he knows I wouldn’t ask to accompany him unless I wanted something from him.

I tighten my grip on the reins. Most likely, he isn’t thinking about me at all. Like usual.

Dad takes Paladin into a canter. Squeezing with my legs, I put Cinnamon into one. When we slow back to a trot, I test the waters.


His block of a face registers no expression, but his head dips a fraction.

“The county fair’s next week. I’m competing on Tuesday. Can you come watch me?”

He shakes his head. “I have meetings all day. I can’t reschedule them.”

And he wouldn’t even try. I stare at the reins in my gloved hands. Should I even bother with what I really need to ask him?

For more plot writing prompts, click here.

Plotting Elegantly

My husband, a nuclear engineer, once mentioned to me that mathematicians try to create elegant formulas. A longer, clunkier one might get the job done, but a simpler, elegant formula is the goal. I realized that should be the goal of writers too–plotting elegantly.

The Bourne Identity

The best way I know to explain plotting elegantly is to use the storyline of the 2002 movie The Bourne Identity. By the way, it’s a terrific international thriller, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t read on.

Jason Bourne is pulled out of the ocean by fishermen without any idea of who he is. As he slowly uncovers his past, he believes he’s an assassin for the CIA, a conclusion that sickens him. His handlers are searching for him, thinking he’s gone rogue or turned traitor. Bit by bit, Jason remembers what finally drove him to escape from his life as a government killer and prompted his amnesia.

The writers could have created any number of backstories to explain why Jason rebelled against his handlers. He could have been an angry young man, taking revenge on the world, until that revenge proved worse than his rage. Or he could have been so empty and purposeless that joining the CIA gave him a chance to feel important, like he was making a difference. Then he falls in love with a woman, maybe a doctor, who shows him that all life is sacred.

Those scenarios and others would have worked. But the screenwriters came up with something elegant. Jason finally remembers his last government hit. He was assigned to sneak onboard a yacht and kill the dictator of an African country. Jason slips into the main cabin, puts the gun to the dictator’s head, and stops. The man’s children, ages five to thirteen, have fallen asleep while watching TV with their father. Jason bolts from the cabin. He can’t bring himself to kill a man in front of his children. Or worse, have to kill the children along with their father so there are no witnesses.

The reason for his amnesia is simple and compelling, so elegant. The writers lay some groundwork. While Jason and the woman, who is helping him evade the police, stay a night with her brother, we see Jason hanging around the brother’s children as they play outside in the twilight. That night, the woman finds Jason checking on the children. These scenes have much more meaning after the single, flashback scene at the end when Jason is on the yacht.

Too Many Clients by Rex Stout

Plotting elegantly doesn’t just mean for the overall story. Each plot point can be given an elegant polish. In Too Many Clients, the body of a wealthy, powerful man is found wrapped and left at an excavation site. Detective Archie Goodwin discovers that the man kept an apartment in a nearby building for his many affairs.

When Archie questions the building’s superintendent and his wife, they confess that they found the body in the apartment and moved it so no one would know about the clandestine rooms. Since they’ve admitted to moving the body, maybe they had some role in the man’s death. Archie asks why they covered the body when they left it at the excavation site. The superintendent replies that the man was dead.

From the way the superintendent says it, as if that was the only decent thing they could do, Archie believes he and his wife are innocent of the crime. It’s a small point in the entire novel, but it’s elegantly done.

For more tips on writing plots, click here.

Your turn. What plots have you read or watched that are elegant?

What’s the Plot for this Ordinary Scene?

This month’s prompts are all about plot, the story component I have the most trouble with. If you have that problem too, I hope these photo prompts will inspire you. I almost passed by the photo I’m using today because it seemed so ordinary. But that’s what fired my imagination. What’s the plot for this ordinary scene? Below is my idea.

As we wrapped up the meeting, I noticed how everyone looked alike. We were all wearing sober blue or black suits. We were all smiling in a friendly but professional way, although I hadn’t felt friendly or professional in weeks. We had just had the fifth meeting of the day to discuss things we would discuss in a meeting next week and the week after that. Had we’d decided to do anything in any of those meetings? I didn’t think so.

“Is something wrong, David?” Amy said as she resumed her seat beside me.

How could she tell? I touched my face. My smile was gone. And I had a feeling it wasn’t coming back.

For more plot prompts, click here.

What’s your plot for this ordinary scene?

Swindle Series by Gordon Korman

I’m moving from last month’s theme of setting to this month’s theme of plot. This story component is the one I struggle with the most. Characters pop into my mind with little effort, exploring and describing settings is a delight, but plotting–that’s where the hard work comes in. If you fall into that camp, read a book from the Swindle series by Gordon Korman. These middle-grade novels are densely plotted, but they’re easy to study because they’re written for ten-year-olds. They’re also a hoot.

The books feature six middle school kids and their whacky adventures as they attempt to foil the plans of crooked adults. In the first book, Griffin Bing is swindled out of a million-dollar baseball card. His parents and the police are no help. Only one thing to do: steal it back.

The plots depend on the personalities and talents of the six kids:

  • Griffin Bing–the Man with the Plan
  • Ben Slovak–smallest kid, a worrier, and Griffin’s best friend.
  • Logan Kellerman–professional actor (the books take place on Long Island)
  • Antonia “Pitch” Benson–athlete
  • Melissa Dukakis–science whiz
  • Savannah Drysdale–animal lover


In this second book of the series, Savannah’s pet monkey Cleo disappears. While on a school field trip to a zoo that motors up and down in the east coast in a paddle wheeler, the kids discover Cleo on exhibit in the ill-kept boat. The owner, Mr. Nastase, says he has proof of purchase of the monkey. Again the parents say they can’t do anything. So Griffin decided to spring Cleo.

The execution of the zoo break, all the twists and turns, is so much fun to read and even more helpful for a writer to analyze. Such as, once the kids sneak aboard to free Cleo, Savannah is so appalled at the living conditions of the other animals that she insists they take them all or she’ll remain on the boat. If she gets arrested for breaking and entering, at least, the cops will see how awful the zoo is. This plot twist is in keeping with Savannah’s personality, which was established in the first pages.

The kids free the other animals and are about to make their escape when they can’t find the boat they used to row over to the paddle wheeler. But Griffin remembers a yellow box he used to help Ben reach a vent. It’s a life raft.

Once the kids makes it home with the animals, Savannah plans on calling a scientist at a well-run local zoo. But the woman is out of the country for two weeks. The kids now have to divide the animals between their homes until the scientist returns. Eventually, this proves so difficult that Griffin devises another zoobreak, this to to break animals into the good zoo.


This book is second to last in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman. The school science fair is coming up. Griffin and Melissa both have entries, and a rivalry heats up, with the friends taking sides. Then Melissa’s invention disappears.

This one is so much fun because you think you’ve picked out the adult the kids are going to face off against, and Mr. Korman pulls a hilarious switcheroo. This story is also heaped with plot twists, but every one makes sense from the way the author lays his groundwork throughout the story.

For another book recommendation on plotting, click here.

What books do you recommend to learn about plotting? Or what book does plotting exceptionally well?

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑