Plot: From Simple to Complex

Adding layers.

Your character wants something.  She tries to attain it and fails.  She tries again and fails.  Third try for the win!  Denouement.

That’s plot at its most simple.  I’d love to say that mine are far more complicated than that.  And sometimes they are.  In chapter one.  Maybe even all the way through chapter three.  But by the time I make it to the end of the story I am writing the main plot line and nothing else. That’s okay because I can go back and fix it.

But what do I mean by main plot line?  That’s my external plot.  That’s your main character vs your antagonist.  Most of the time, that antagonist is another human being.  Sometimes it is nature.  Or time.

To give your story depth, it is important to go beyond this external conflict.  Include an internal conflict.  Your protagonist has a flaw.  This flaw feeds into the external conflict.  Until the main character addresses said flaw, the chances of achieving her big goal are iffy.

But as I was reading a post by K.M. Weiland I saw that she discusses a third plot layer.  The main relationship.  Yep. Even as things are going from bad to worse, your character has to sort things out with someone else.  It might be a love interest if you are writing YA.  If you are writing middle grade, it might be a friend or a family member.  Or a teacher.


As if all of this wasn’t enough, you could also add a subplot.  If you protagonist is having to work through a problem concerning self-identity, perhaps the antagonist is as well.  Or the side kick could be trying to sort this out.

I wish I could remember the name of one of the television shows my husband and I used to watch right after we got married.  It was a humorous family drama.  If one of the parents was having to work through X problem with a co-worker, one of the kids would be working through a similar problem with a friend or two of the kids would have this type of problem with each other.  Because of this, the stories felt layers and nuanced.

This sort of thing isn’t going to happen in the first draft.  Read through your work-in-progress and see where you can make additions, creating layers to provide the reader with a living breathing story.


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