Not Your Typical Plot Diagram
Let's face it - a typical plot diagram is worse than useless...
It has a gently sloping line on the left showing the rising action, and a sharply falling slope on the right where the action drops. The peak at the top is the novel's climax.And beginning writers are somehow meant to learn from this!
The plot diagram below is a little more complicated. It should be fairly self-explanatory, so long as you have read the detailed articles on plotting a novel's beginning, middle and ending.
If you haven't studied the comprehensive material on how to plot a novel, go do that first.
Still here? Then take a look at the diagram below and I'll say a few words about it afterwards.
- The novel begins with the status quo, in the bottom left hand corner. Nothing has happened yet.
- The action kicks in when "something happens" - symbolized by the line on the graph beginning to rise.
- The character finally committing to their goal marks the precise point at which the beginning of the novel turns into the middle.
- The middle of the novel is represented by the rising line of action. The green zigzags indicate that, although the overall trend is for the action to continue to rise in intensity as the story progresses, there will nevertheless be peaks and troughs along the way.
- Generally speaking, the peaks are the points at which the "mini plots" climax, and the troughs are those quieter moments in between the scenes - what I call the "interludes".
- The middle ends when the character, in failing to reach their overall goal, hits rock bottom. This is the most intense point of the novel, when all hope is seemingly lost.
- The action dips somewhat when the character reacts emotionally to this devastating blow.
- But it then rises again when the character, strengthened by their epiphany, goes on to "seize the prize" (or not).
- You could, if you want, end the novel right here. Or you could go on to show the new status quo in a final chapter. Keep it brief if you do, though, because anything from here on in is, by definition, anti-climactic (represented by the rapidly falling line of action).
And that is it. Like I say, it won't make much sense by itself, but hopefully it is a useful reference tool if you have already read the detailed material on how to plot a novel.
Final Caveat: Don't take the plot diagram too literally. It is not, for example, "drawn to scale" in any way. If it helps you to visualize how to plot your novel, great. If not, you can safely ignore it.
Next Step: Now it is time to learn about Adding Subplots to your novel...