Where Would You Place This Scene in a Plot?

So much of writing advice that deals with plot is focused on some kind of action–confrontations, betrayals, suspense, etc. I chose this photo because it’s quiet. Where would you place this scene in a plot?

I think it could anywhere except the beginning. The beginning should always have some kind of action to hook the reader. You could use it to start a story if a rock comes through the window or gloved hands pop out of the darkness on the first page.

But I think this scene would work better in the middle, when the main character has to think over things he’s learned during the course of the story. Or it maybe this character’s mirror moment. This is a scene in the middle of a story described by James Scott Bell in his book, Write Your Novel from the Middle, which I review here.

Or maybe this scene is the wrap up after the climax. The character is coming to some kind of conclusion from what he experienced in the story.

Now it’s your turn. Where would you place this scene in a plot?

For more prompts for writing plots, click here.

4 Ways to Fix Troublesome Plot Points

This post is a blast from the past. I posted the original over 3 years ago. When I came across it, I thought it would be helpful to repost it. If you are running into plotting problems, below are 4 ways to fix troublesome plot points.

As you work through a story, you may be tempted to tell a plot point rather than show it. It’s so much easier and quicker. Sometimes, a plot point needs to be told so as not to bog down the narrative. This is especially true in mysteries. Often characters are relaying information to each other. It’s perfectly fine to tell it, so I don’t repeat myself. For example, if I have written in detail the conversation Bob has with Ann, I do not have to repeat all the details when Bob tells Tom about it. I can write, “Bob told Tom what he learned from Ann over lunch.” Or “Bob reported his conversation with Ann, leaving out the part about her poodle.” But wanting to tell a plot point instead of showing can be a sign of a bigger problem.

The plot is too complicated.

I started “A Rose from the Ashes” in Christmas fiction off the beaten path from the point of view of a female character who wants to figure out who is leaving two roses in the fireplace at the abandoned children’s home. This woman drags her nineteen-year-old friend into her amateur sleuthing. At the end of the story, I planned to reveal the teen was behind the roses, then have her explain she was trying to find her father, then have her explain she was also investigating a murderous attack on her mother. It hit me that, while the plot was good, I was presenting it in a needlessly complicated way.The story belonged to the nineteen-year-old girl. I should let her tell it. Once I changed my main character, the plot complications smoothed out beautifully.

The plot point is unnecessary.

If I can’t think of an interesting way to show a plot point, I’m tempted to tell it. That’s when I should examine it and see if I really need it. Maybe it’s an unnecessary complication. Or I may realize …

The plot point needs a change.

Let’s say my amateur sleuth must find out that Old Man Thompson had an illegitimate child in high school. I was planning to have the gossipy hair stylist tell him. But I can’t get a good handle on the stylist character, so I want to rush through the scene, telling it, instead of showing it. So I change how my sleuth learns the information. Maybe his grandmother tells him because she graduated with Old Man Thompson. Now that provides my main character with a personal connection to his investigation. Or maybe he finds an old diary with the information. Where does he find the diary? Whose diary is it? Those questions and others can inspire me to show and not tell my plot point.

The plot point is unconvincing.

If you’ve watched mystery shows and movies very often, you know what I mean. The detective discovers the true meaning behind a clue and spends minutes convincing a skeptical colleague. But the detective isn’t really trying convince his friend that an unlikely suspect did it. Actually, the screenwriter knows he’s thrown in an outrageous twist and is hoping to get the audience to believe it by having his detective explain the clue to his friend, who is standing in the place of the audience. For example:

Detective: “Yes, those mysterious yellow and green feathers were deliberately left at the murder scene to make us suspect that Miss Prim had trained her parrot to drop the tablet of poison into Mayor Abernathy’s tea cup. But in reality, Mrs. Abernathy mixed the poison in the sugar bowl because she knew her husband always ate cereal on Tuesdays and always put sugar on it.”

Skeptical Friend: “That’s hard to believe.”

Detective: “How about this: Miss Prim really did train her parrot to drop the tablet of poison into Mayor Abernathy’s tea cup?”

Skeptical Friend, edging toward door: “Not really.”

I ran into this problem when I had to create a reason for why Rae’s father hadn’t looked for her when he thought her mother was pregnant with his child. I came up with a long-winded explanation but realized I was trying to convince myself. So I simplified it. The entire county thought Rae’s mother had died in a fire. For years, her father did, too. When he thought Rae’s mom might have escaped the fire, he figured she had aborted the baby, which she had threatened to do. Simple and convincing. If I couldn’t convince myself of this plot point, I needed either to get rid of it or change it.

For more tips on plotting, click here.

How have you used troubleshooting to improve your plots? Or what plot points have you read that you think needed troubleshooting?

Examine Your Settings for Plot Points

When building your plot, be sure to examine your settings for plot points. Or if you are stuck at a certain point in your story, analyze your setting to see if it can provide inspiration.

Take a look at the photo above. What aspects of this setting could help you develop plot points? It’s dark, so bad guys may be able to move more easily and attack your hero. The darkness can also heighten a surprise–meeting someone new or bumping into an old acquaintance. The main character can stumble over something new, like a mysterious shop or stray dog that follows him. The night and the narrow streets can confuse your main character, if she doesn’t know this part of the city well. She could get lost while looking for a pet and asks for help from the wrong stranger. Or the right one, depending upon what kind of story you’re telling.

For more writing prompts for setting, click here.

Now it’s your turn. Examine this setting for plot points and let me know how you’re inspired.

Kick off the Plot at the Beginning

As many new writers learn, the job of the first page of the story is to hook the reader. There are many cheap ways to do that–like a dream or the reader finds out that the first thrilling five pages are part of the a story the main character is reading. But if you can kick off the plot at the beginning as well as establishing the major characters and setting, you are also creating a hook for the reader that genuinely reflects what they can expect in the story.

Below is the opening paragraphs to my YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow, with analysis


This novel is a mystery and the first line kicks it off by showing what somebody wrote in an anonymous note.

  • 2. I stared at the sheet of copier paper in my hand as the note fluttered in a gust of January wind. 

The reader knows that this “I” is a female named Rae. When you write in first person, you need to establish right away if the narrator is male or female, so readers can start imagining the character. A disembodied personality will turn off readers. I’m also setting the scene in this paragraph—it’s January and Rae is outside.

  • 3. Really? It had only taken three weeks for someone to hate me and my mom enough to leave an anonymous insult? 

Since the entire novel is told from Rae’s POV, every word is supposed to be from her. The first paragraphs are the readers’ introduction to her personality. I also work in some backstory.

  • 4. Turning over the envelope, I saw my address was written in the same marker, same all-caps style. It was postmarked. I must have missed it when I grabbed my mail last night

These are details to help the reader see the setting and the action. It also shows what kind of mind Rae has, since she’s examining the letter, not just reading it

  • 5. Shivering on the miniscule landing to my apartment, I blew out a sigh, which formed a little cloud in the freezing air. At least the idiot hadn’t crept up to my mailbox in the dead of night. I shivered again, and it wasn’t from another gust. 

More scene setting, more thoughts to get to know Rae.

  • 6. People could hold a grudge in Marlin County, Ohio. I’d learned that in the last three weeks since I discovered Mal was my dad and announced Bella Rydell was my mother. The strained smiles, cold stares, conversations that didn’t get much past “hello” and “I’m fine.” Mom had made a lot of enemies, but that was twenty years ago. I’d told everyone who asked the story of how she’d been saved and changed her life. Well, most of it. 

Just enough backstory to help readers understand Rae’s thoughts about the note

  • 7. I shoved the piece of paper back in the envelope, tossed it inside my apartment, and locked the door behind me. 

Action and scene setting.

  • 8. Holding my tripod and a roll of leftover bulletin board paper in one hand, I clutched the strap of my backpack with the other and climbed down the icy steps to the pad in front of the garage. Picking my way across Mrs. Blaney’s snow-covered lawn, I pulled the keys to my ancient truck from the pocket of my down vest. The Rust Bucket sat by the curb, draped in a thin layer of snow that couldn’t disguise its demolition derby appearance.

More action and scene setting. I provide specific details about the scene such as “holding my tripod”, “clutched the strap of my backpack”, “my ancient truck”, to help readers “see” the scene and to know Rae better. The action, thought, and setting work together to carry the plot, which is the mystery surrounding who wrote the nasty note and why.

For more tips on writing plots, click here.

What stories have you read that do a great job to kick off the plot at the beginning and hook readers on the first page?

What Plot Does This Photo Prompt?

To follow this month’s theme of plot, I’ll be choosing photos to inspire them. What plot does this photo prompt?

The woman or girl playing the violin looks contemporary. But why is she playing beside a gap in the rocky cliff on a misty day? The moisture can’t be good for her violin. Since I haven’t done a speculative fiction prompt in awhile, I’ll take the photo prompt in the that direction.

A savage, mysterious beast lurks among the clefts of the cliff. It’s been coming into the nearest town and attacking people. Scientist can’t even catch a glimpse of it on trail cameras. The woman’s grandmother remembers a similar incident when she was a girl and that the beast disappeared when a young man ventured to the cliffs and played his guitar. The young man disappeared too. The woman and her grandmother conduct more research, and then the young woman heads to the cliffs.

Or the woman is playing in the secluded area because in her world, music had been outlawed. Music is the most powerful form of magic and the rulers keep the art to themselves. When the woman plays by the cliff, she unleashes a special kind of magic. Once she understands its potential, she has to learn how to blend her music with it in order to overturn the government.

Or the woman could be evil. She knows if she plays this cursed violin at this spot on a particular day, the violin will be enchanted with the power to control people when she plays it.

For more photo prompts for plot, click here.

Now it’s your turn. What plot does this photo prompt?

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑