Archive for July, 2013

July 22, 2013

Today’s Writers’ Tips

Fiction Plots

I’ve just finished reading a very good book, TWENTY MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias.  Before reading the book, I was totally unaware of how many different kinds of plots a writer could contrive in his/her fiction work. I’ve used this book as one of my primary resources this week as I teach a work-in-progress class at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, PA. http://www.montrosebible.org/writers.htm This work by Tobias is packed with useful information for any writer of fiction, who desires to improve his skills for writing an appealing, can’t-put-the-book-down manuscript.

Last time I posted here (July 8, 2013), I defined “plot” and looked at the difference between a plot-driven book and a character-driven book. Today we’ll look at the first plot Ronald Tobias defined in his book:

PLOT # 1


The Wizard of Oz

Lord of the Rings

The Grapes of Wrath

Jason and the Argonauts

As you write your story, keep these points in mind:

1. A quest plot should be about a search for a person, place, or thing; develop a close parallel between your hero’s intent and motivation and what he’s trying to find.

2. Your plot should move, visiting many people and places. Don’t just move your character around as the wind blows. Movement should be contingent on your plan of cause and effect. (You can make the journey seem like there’s nothing guiding it— making it seem casual— but in fact it is causal.)

3. Consider bringing your plot full circle geographically. Your hero frequently ends up in the same place where she started.

4. Make your character different at the end of the story as a result of his/her quest. This story is about the character, who makes the search, not about the object of the search itself. Your character is in the process of changing during the story. How does he/she change and why?

5. The object of the journey is wisdom, which takes the form of self-realization for the hero.  This is often the process of maturation. It could be about a child who learns the lessons of adulthood, but it could also be about an adult who learns the lessons of life.

6. Your first act should include a motivating incident, which starts your hero’s search. Don’t just launch into a quest; make sure your reader understands why your character wants to go on the quest.

7. Your hero should have at least one companion. He must have interactions with other characters to keep the story from becoming too abstract or too interior. Your hero needs someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to argue with.

8. Consider including a helpful character.

9. Your last act should include your character’s discovery, which occurs either after giving up the search or after achieving it.

10. What your character discovers is usually different from what he originally sought.


Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Next time, we’ll have a look at PLOT #2: ADVENTURE

Happy writing!



Is historical fiction (romance) one of your favorite genres? Check out Olivia Stocum’s latest work: DAWNING

Scotland, 1599 . . .  He abandoned her. She had failed to be enough for him. The empty space he left behind hollowed out her heart, and she wondered what to do with the rest of her life.

When Ronan leaves the clan to seek his fortune, Triona MacAlastair fears she will never see him again. Four years later, a threat against her life forces her to depend on a mysterious, cloaked rogue known as Blackhawk.

She knows he is capable of protecting her, but what is he hiding? Why does he refuse to show his face?   

Amazon Link:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DYSM6DO


A Little About the Author:

Olivia Stocum lives in upstate New York with her husband, three children, and their Jack Russell Terror (oh, sorry, Terrier). She has been writing since she was first published when she was eight years old. The majority of her childhood was spent riding horses, playing with her dog, shooting her favorite re-curve bow, and going on imaginary adventures with Robin Hood. One day she might even decide to grow up (but probably not).

Stocum.Author pic.

Contact Olivia at: www.theclaymoreandsurcoat.com  or www.facebook.com/OliviaStocum



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July 8, 2013

Today’s Writers’ Tips

Writers, we’re going to take a break for a while from featuring published authors and get back to some basics of good writing. I’ve just finished reading an excellent book, TWENTY MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias. http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them/dp/1599635372/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373314000&sr=1-1  I am using this work as one of my primary resources in a few weeks when I teach a work-in-progress class at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, PA. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.montrosebible.org%2Fwriters.htm&ei=fRzbUfq9EqW60gHvxoDgAg&usg=AFQjCNE6eBHHGq2fy6n4wd_gCRGJQ4TYTA&sig2=mQTtDfODgvetvb5yGpd_Qg&bvm=bv.48705608,d.dmQ

This book by Tobias is packed with useful information for any writer of fiction, who desires to improve his skills for writing an appealing, can’t-put-the-book-down manuscript. All the tips in this series of blog posts comes from this book.

Today we’re going to start by reviewing the definition of plot,a plot-driven book, and a character-driven book. So if you’re been wanting to write good fiction, regardless of the age of your readership, take special note of the helpful tips in my next 20 or so blog posts.


  1. A plot is organic, the skeleton that holds the story together, the scaffold, the superstructure, the chassis, the frame, a force, a process.
  2. Every plot is different, but each has its roots in a pattern of unified behavior and action.
  3. It’s a blueprint of human behavior.
  4. It’s more than a chronicle of events. It answers WHY! (It has to be more than “Johnny hit his sister Susie.” WHY did he hit her?)
  5. TENSION fuels the plot.
  6. PLOT asks the question; the CLIMAX answers it.

DEFINITION OF A PLOT-DRIVEN BOOK: the mechanism of the story that is more important than the characters. The characters are there to make the plot happen.

DEFINITION OF A CHARACTER-DRIVEN BOOK: the mechanism of the story is less important than the characters.

  1. Don’t have a STATIC character. He/she must be different at the end than he/she was in the beginning.
  2. Put your character in a SITUATION.
  3. Use TRIANGLES: the relationship between character and plot. They make the strongest character combinations and are most common. Events happen in threes. (Example: the hero tries 3X to overcome an obstacle.)
  4. MOTIVATION: explaining why the major characters to what they do: ACTION VS. REACTION

 So there are some introductory tips for you to ponder as you plan your work of fiction. Next time, we’ll share with you some pointers to help you write a plot that focuses on a quest or a goal the protagonist is aiming to achieve.

Happy writing!



Enjoy the 11th story in my Snyder County Quilting Bee Short Story Series now listed as an e-story on Amazon:

Valerie’s Run-in with the Law

Volume Eleven

Mennonite teacher Valerie Hornberger loves teaching so much, she offers to help fourteen summer school students at the Maple Grove Mennonite School in Mapletown, PA. When fourth grader Justin Romig steals and lies, Valerie must follow the school’s disciplinary code and administer corporal punishment, the one facet of teaching she absolutely hates.

The very same evening of the discipline, Sheriff Jefferies and Officer Kraft show up at Valerie’s home with a formal written complaint from the Snyder County Children and Youth Services, accusing Valerie of child abuse. Despite Valerie’s plea that Justin received a “mere paddling,” the sheriff threatens Valerie. If she continues to use corporal discipline, the school could be closed, or her own children could be taken from her home.

Should Valerie continue to obey the Mennonite church’s edicts concerning the rearing of children or will she succumb to the pressure of the state and back down?





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