Situation v. Plot

I am thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year, joining with thousands of others in trying to write 50,000 words–a novel–during the month of November.

You can’t count any words written before November 1, but I know I can’t do this if I don’t work on a plot before the mad rush officially begins. So far, I only have a situation.

What’s the difference in a plot and a situation?

A situation is a single event, a strange combination of story elements. For example, there’s an annual contest called Stuck on a Truck. The idea is for selected people to put their hands on a truck and keep them there. The last one standing–and still stuck on that truck–will win the truck. It usually takes 100 hours for the last ones to drop out. That’s 4-5 days with no sleep.

It’s an interesting situation and one that I’d like to write about. But it’s not a plot.

Transform a Situation into a Plot

For the situation to become a plot, I need to add characters with real problems they must overcome. I am sifting through the ideas for characters, looking for flaws, quirks and a heart for readers to connect with. I also need to add a setting, ground the story in a particular historical period (contemporary, historical, fantasy, etc.), a particular geographical place. And finally, I need to be mean, cruel, despicably unfair to my characters; in other words, I need intense complications that force my characters to make decisions they don’t want to make. Tension on every page.

Fortunately, there are 29 plot templates I can follow when considering options.

Also of interest:

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Are you doing the NaNoWriMo? Why is it right for you this year?

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