Thursday, June 23, 2011

Plot Questions

Earlier today, I taught a webinar for Writers' Digest University about plotting. As promised, I'm posting the questions I asked the writers to ask of their books here. Readers of Second Sight may note that these questions both substantially reflect and in a couple of instances substantially change the material in the book.

  1. What is your Emotional Point?
  2. What is your Thematic Point?
  3. What is your Experiential Point? 
  4. Does a change of some kind happen in the course of your book?
  5. Who changes in your WIP?
  6. What is your protagonist’s change in circumstances from the beginning to the end of the novel? (Action Plot)
  7. And how does he himself change? (Emotional Plot)
  8. What is your character’s drive that keeps getting him into trouble in the plot? What is your character’s compulsion?
  9. What is your character’s thing to be gained or lost? What is her desire? 
  10. Conflict, Mystery, Lack: Which type best describes your central action plot?
  11. Stakes: At the beginning of your book, what is at stake for your character in this book in the Action Plot? The Emotional Plot? What will happen to him if the change we see in the action doesn’t come about?
  12. What are the stakes by the end?
  13. Structure:  What is the Inciting Incident of your Action Plot?
  14. List as many Escalating or Complicating Events in that plot as you can.
  15. List the Obstacles in that plot.
  16. What is the Climax of your Action Plot?
  17. What is the Resolution of your Action Plot?
  18. What is the Inciting Incident of your Emotional Plot?
  19. List as many Escalating or Complicating Events in that plot as you can.
  20. List the Obstacles in that plot.
  21. What is the Climax of your Emotional Plot?
  22. What is the Resolution of your Emotional Plot?
  23. Where are your Turning Points?


  1. Cheryl,

    This was the best webinar I have found. I have been writing for a long time but always got stuck when the rough draft was over. I'm in critique groups and am working towards my own publishing...(I have contributed writings to Girl Talk by Nicole O'Dell, Barbour Publishing, 2011)
    Your 23 questions and working with a bookmap was amazing.

    I will be striving to work with you in the future.

  2. Thank you for the great webinar — very timely for me.

  3. Thank you so much for posting these so quickly. This was my first webinar so it was a little difficult for me to keep up in spots, but I know I'll be getting a copy of the recording next week.

    Thank you, Cheryl, for your time. I thought this was outstanding and expect that the information you gave today will substantially improve my manuscript. I've read loads of books and seen dozens of checklists, but something about the entire experience today really connected with me. I am actually excited about getting back to revising and feel like I have solid tools now that will make a real difference for me.


  4. A great webinar. Happy to hear the shout out for "Characters & Viewpoint" one of the first writing books I read. I'm loving "Second Sight" as well.

  5. Thank you for the webinar - these questions will be a great focusing tool for me, as I approach my second draft.

    Very surprised this was your first webinar, by the way. The pace, organization, and amount of information shared were great!


  6. Thanks Cheryl. I'm looking forward to going through the recording to take notes. I can understand why you were speeding along, since your webinar was so crammed full of information. Great.

  7. Cheryl, this was wonderful! I feel much more positive and ready to keep wrestling with my work-in-progress. Thank you!

    And I feel bad, I sent my email with the stuff for critique without a thank you at the end because I was so nervous to hit "send" at all-- so please imagine a nice polite thank you at the end of my email! :)

  8. Thank you so much for the great webinar! It was my first and so worth it. I look forward to reading your book and using the info I learned today to work out some existence issues in my manuscript.

  9. What a great webinar! I took notes so I wouldn't have to wait until next week to review the info more thoroughly :)

    I had to step out near the end--kids' swim lessons--but I have a question:

    You talked about defining point and three kinds of points. Do you have any more tips on how to uncover/define/figure out these points in our manuscripts? I was horrible at figuring out theme in high school and I still struggle with it.

    (Hope it's okay to ask here. I couldn't find a place to ask now that the webinar is over.)

  10. Thank you, Cheryl...just what I was looking for to help deconstruct my manuscript for further revision.

    Not being formally trained in creative writing, it's funny how I thought "what's so hard about writing a book?" a year ago, and now that I am in the revision utmost respect and adoration goes out to those who can craft an emotionally satisfying page-turner. Your expertise is well-taken.

    Very, very helpful. Thanks again!

  11. Great webinar! the information is so valuable to the revision process. I'm anxious to put your tips to use!

  12. Thank you for putting this together, Cheryl. This was my first webinar and absolutely worth it. I've now downloaded JK Rowling's book map and have a magnifying lens to study it before I go to sleep tonight.

  13. Cheryl, how long will we be able to use the code that you gave at the end of the webinar? I just tried to order your book, but I received some strange error when confirming, so I have no idea if it went through. I want to be very careful not to duplicate my order.


  14. Cheryl, thank you for all the great information during the webinar. I also greatly appreciated the information on the JK Rowling plot chart and downloaded it for further analysis. I look forward to reading your book and further understanding the plotting process.

  15. Excellent packed so much into 90 minutes! Thanks for posting these questions.

  16. Thanks for the kind words, all!

    Shonna, I will add your question to the others from the webinar, so you'll get a response next week.

    Khanada, the code should be good indefinitely. If you can't make the computer system work, call (612) 455-4301 between 9-5 M-F and you should be able to place a phone order.

  17. As good as a conference, and better, as there are additional long term advantages for me, the learner. I look forward to more in this format, so am hoping it was a worthwhile, successful experience for you!

  18. WHY haven't I bought your book yet? I think it's happening today. Your insights are so valuable. Thanks for this!

  19. Cheryl, you gave me such a lift yesterday. I'm seeing my WIP with new eyes. I loved the idea of the intention letter and the "justify your existence" piece. Great webinar! Thanks for posting the questions!

  20. Thank you for the insightful webinar. "Justify your Existence" is so Zen!

  21. The suggestion which is currently helping me break through a log jam in my manuscript is your suggestion to think of the worst thing that could happen to my character, to put him in a position where he has to react, and even better, make a choice.
    It's working!! Thank you

  22. This is a great list of what to consider. I'm going to be outlining a new project soon so I'll be asking myself all these questions. I'm so sorry I had to miss your webinar, but I had to work. It looks like everyone enjoyed it. I'm not surprised at all.

  23. Cheryl, excellent, excellent, excelllent! :)
    By the way, from Harry Potter fan to Harry Potter fan what do you think about Pottermore?

  24. Cheryl - thanks; the company told me that different tabs open in my browser can affect their ordering process. I was able to order the book yesterday with no problems.

  25. This webinar was extremely useful, and well . Thank you for making everything very clear. I think I'll be picking up Second Sight very soon.
    Thanks again!