Stories are everywhere: in our everyday life, in books, on the news. In life we are surrounded by stories, and they can be fact or fiction.
A story is a sequence of events, and these may be fictional or real. You can create them, imagine them, remember them. When we tell someone 'this happened to me today', we are telling them a story.
It helps to think of a story as a journey that starts in one place and ends up somewhere else.
All the fiction we write has a story at its heart. To create a story, imagine a sequence of events. Beginning, middle, end. By the end, something has changed – your character's life, circumstances, emotions – and whatever that is will give you a clue about how you plot your fiction.
Plot is a literary device that enables you to tell your story. Once you have a story in mind, you can decide how you are going to plot it.
Plot is the events that make up a story. When you are plotting your story, it is up to you to decide how you organize these events to make the plot that tells your story in the best way. Your story's structure will be based on how you decide to plot it.
To create a plot, you might start with the characters: what is it about them that provides the drama that will create the sequence of events in your story? Or you could think about the key events in your story and how best to arrange them to create a plot. If you are plotting a crime story, you will know what the key crime is but where will you put it in your narrative to create the most effective plot? If you're writing a romance, where do you put the life-changing encounter between the two lovers? Is it the beginning of the story, or the end?
Plot is not only about how you handle the events in your story, but how you hold a reader's interest. When you are creating a plot for your story, you will have to consider things like: what happens when; when to reveal information; when to withhold information; when to introduce a character and what to show about them that will add to the story you are telling.
If you have created an effective plot, everything in it will keep your reader turning the pages of your story.
Now let's put plot vs story into practice and look at how it works in your writing
Think of a basic story. The princess kissed the frog and it turned into a prince.
Now think of the beginnings of several different plots round that story. For instance:
1) Rom-com: She kissed the frog and it told her an anecdote about her schooldays so she realised it was the person she fell in love with when she was 12 that she thought she'd never see again.
2) Thriller: She kissed the frog and it turned into a crack secret agent on a mission to kidnap her as a way of creating political instability.
3) Crime: She kissed the frog and died horribly because there was poison on its lips – it was the signature that had earned the serial killer the nickname 'Frogman'.
What else can you come up with in terms of a plot based on that storyline? You can see that the possibilities are endless.
• Here are some more stories. Try creating at least three plots based on each story.
1) He caught the bus as usual and sat next to a person who changed his life.
2) She set off for the market but she never came home.
3) They found true love before they died.
There are five essential ingredients in a plot. These are:
Introduce the characters and setting, and show the key conflict or drama that needs to be resolved by the end of the story.
• Rising action
The part of the story where you build up events to create tension and reader interest.
• The climax
This is where something happens that changes the course of the narrative and makes your readers think: what will happen next?
• Falling action
Where you are beginning to resolve the conflict/drama facing your characters.
The resolution, or end - the reader has completed the journey your story has taken them on.
Story and Plot