Even if you’ve never written a single word, at some point in your life someone has told you how important a plot is to a story. If you have nothing else, you need a plot.
For architect writers, the writer that meticulously plots out the story down to the very intricate detail, creating a plot is easy. It’s the first brick in a towering foundation.
For myself, maybe it’s because I can’t plot out a story for the life of me, maybe it’s because I’m a discovery writer, someone who likes to just sit down and write, I don’t have very good plots. In fact, I often forget about plots until it’s too late.
By and large, there are seven plots.
- Overcoming the Monster/Enemy
- Rags to Riches
- Voyage and Return
- The Quest
Some writers will layer a very thin plot over what is essentially a character story. Others will use wooden, 2D characters to create a compelling and colorful plot.
In a short story, my main focus of writing, I’ve found the plot can be substituted by either movement or conflict.
Both of these can be physical or metaphorical, depending on the story you’re writing. Moving from point A to point B. Getting in a fight. Spiritually learning and bettering oneself. Emotional inner turmoil.
Because there often isn’t enough time or space to create an entire plot, simply using movement or conflict can work to your advantage. Maybe you can’t create an entire plot about overcoming the enemy, but a simple fistfight could replace that. A quest might not fit into a short story, but a story about running to the grocery store and someone or something encountered along the way could replicate it.
While writing short stories, I am always looking for ways to cut down on writing without sacrificing story, and these are two of the ways I’ve found.