8. Formula and Plot system

For my short story about the murderess (she has a name now, Felicity) I am trying out a six step formula, which I read about in an article in ‘Writing’ magazine. Here it is:

  1. Present your character with a problem.
  2. Create an incident that intensifies the problem.
  3. Let your character react to the intensified problem.
  4. Devise an incident or set of circumstances that thwarts all the characters efforts and possibly seems to make the problem insurmountable.
  5. Let the character react in a way that suits his or her personality. It can be one more attempt to overcome the problem by firm action or something less positive.
  6. Terminate their efforts either by admission of their own failure, or by a successful solution to the original problem.


When actually writing the story I will start at step 3 (a moment of high drama) continue with the drama in step 4. After step 4, I’ll devise a way to give the reader the information in steps 1 and 2 (the backstory). Then onto step 5.

It is claimed the above formula works. It will produce over and over again solid plots for stories. They will have a word count suitable for magazine publication and competition entries. Well, we shall see.


Now, I’ve tried a variety of plotting systems, index cards, plot as you go along (headlights system), and even no plotting at all. But, I am happiest if I write a treatment. This is a narrative outline written in the present tense, with crucial dialogue added in. I like to frolic with all the story material that comes into my imagination and get it recorded.

The treatment is heavily edited and revised until it is a solid story. For the current story this is nearly complete and will be my next posting. See you then.

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