Plot and Structure

The last workshop I attended at the writers’ conference was presented by Tracy Higley.  She did a fantastic, fast-paced presentation on plot and structure, based on examples by Christopher Vogler who wrote Writer’s Journey and Michael Hauge of

Tracy explained that plot is critical to keep readers moving through your story because even if they like your characters, if nothing is happening, you’ll lose them.  You need to have a story goal for your protagonist and it can be either a concrete,visible goal or an abstract, inner goal.  She gave examples:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — story goal — defeat the witch and The Wizard of Oz — to go home; abstract goal — learning to be content at home.

When the story goal is reached, the story is over. 

Your story needs an obstacle and conflict.  An obstacle — something solid that’s trying to keep your character from reaching his/her goal.  Conflict — needs to be significant.  Your character will have to go over, go through, or go under the obstacle to reach the goal.  Create story goal, obstacle, and conflict over and over again, scene by scene with each ending being a disaster/failure and use your character’s reaction to connect these.  Scene and chapter endings fade in the middle of the conflict or right after the disaster or right after a new goal is made.

This pattern should be followed for each book you write with an overarcing pattern for a trilogy or series.

Tracy suggested reading Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (there are several editions available); Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and check out Michael Hauge’s website and his book Hero’s Journey, which is available through his website:

Tracy writes wonderful historical fiction and you can find her at:

I love to read historical fiction, and though, I like to do research occasionally, I don’t think I’d want to write a genre that would require me to do extensive research for every book, so I’m glad we have authors like Tracy who do the research and write the wonderful historical stories.  I love to read so many types of fiction, I think that is why it was difficult to decide what type of fiction I should write.  That’s why I’m so glad I have a loving God that I can turn to for guidance.  I am also very blessed and thankful for a supportive husband and an encouraging oldest son.  I know the writer’s life can be isolated and that not every writer has supportive friends and family, so I hope that if you are one of those writers, you can visit my blog and find support and encouragement here.  Feel free to comment if you want some personal support and encouragement and I’ll be happy to be your support and encouragement.

One thought on “Plot and Structure

  1. Hi Kelly, Ah, plot and structure…and they are for me so character-based. It is SO difficult for me to have conflict between my characters, you know what I mean? I don’t want to “hurt them…” so whenever something bad has to happen to someone to move the story forward, I tend to try to resolve it too quickly, which ruins any natural tension and suspense, necessary even in a regular non-thriler novel.

    It is so hard to hang on and say to my characters, who become utterly real to me, “Its okay…All will work out in the end..” Or worse, treat them as merely characters in a novel and realize that an author has to do what she has to do! Some characters have to be the bad guys after all, no? (Though my tendency in life and so in novels is not to want to write about anyone completely irredeemable. Also, since I think a lot of plot is character-driven (there are arguments about this) when I cannot thwart my characters, my plot gets weak. ‘Tis a problem, and it stopped me dead last winter, right after NaNoWrMo, after having written 50,000 words in a month…because I realized, Well, Pam, what happens NOW??? You like everyone and everyone likes everyone else in the book, but something needs to happen.

    Fact is, I didn’t have the guts to MAKE something bad happen, not then. I need to sit down and do it, or the novel will simply languish. But as you know, it is a lonely occupation, and unless you have a teacher, or a mentor or can afford workshops, one is on one’s own…Sorry, This is not meant as a complaint at all. I LOVE writing. It was merely meant to expand on your theme of plot and structure, and offer my own thoughts/problems about what prevent writers from achieving strong ones For me it is all because I like happy characters and don’t want to hurt them, or not for long. Does that seem silly?




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