3 Basic Tips on Plotting A Fiction Novel - #WriteTip


If you’ve never written a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene outline, then this post should really help. It is important to make sure that each scene in your novel has a vital reason for being there. It must reveal at least two of these elements: character motivation, goal, conflict, characterization, or new information. 

Basically, a scene must propel the story forward in some way. So if the scene has conflict and reveals new information pertaining to the plot, the scene has a vital purpose. Not every scene needs tension or conflict. Slower scenes that show characterization or the character's growth ARC are needed, too. 

So this is a very basic overview of how you can evaluate every scene / chapter in your novel to make sure the plot stays on course. 

  Scene Goals

Every chapter must involve the goal and motivation of the characters in that scene. Whether it’s your protagonist or the villain, their internal and external goals and motives should propel the story.

The main character(s) must have a clear and obvious goal.

In fiction that can be any type of motivation, like coming to terms with the loss of a job or losing a bike race. But it helps to fix plot holes if the main character has a more obvious goal, like donating a kidney or protecting a loved one. 

The goal has to be clear.

It has to be consistent.

And it has to matter. 

If it’s not important to the protagonist, it won’t matter to the reader. 

I will include a basic plot structure and what each point means below for you to use to ensure that you stay on the plotting road and don’t meander from the storyline based on Dwight Swain’s insight self-editing book, “Techniques of the Selling Writer.”

Every scene should have the following three patterns:




A sequel should have the following three patterns:




You may think these scene points are too basic. But this is reducing the storyline to follow the two very simple forms have been used by successful novelists. And there are many other scene outlines that writers can use; however, they normally do not work quite as well. Some writers may feel that it’s impossible to write scenes following these simple rules. Except it’s not, if you want your timeline and story arc to stay on track.

Still unsure? Ask yourself these questions regarding every scene:

What is the character's goal in this scene?

What do these characters want?

Why do they want it?

What stands in their way of getting it?

What is the biggest obstacle to your character getting what they want?

Now answer these questions for each scene until you get to the end. When you are finished, go ahead, and mentally pat yourself on the back. You have a solid plot!
Now I’ll share what I do to make sure that my storyline stays on track by using a simple chapter-by-chapter questionnaire. In bold are my chapter questions and scene information, and in italics are my responses and important data.


Locations / Date and Time of day:
Luna Pizza – Saturday, Sept 10 evening

Main character goal in this scene:

Help boy and seek answers to wolf attack to protect others

Obstacles or Conflict:

Main character is unsure and scared of the new threat in town.
James dies after lycan attack
Drive to Ravenhurst with Ari, get attacked by wolf, and see spooky raven

What’s at stake?

Others in town could be hurt or killed by animals if main character doesn’t find a way to stop them.

Important Information Learned:

James bitten by wolf and ends up in a mysterious coma

Shiloh is embarrassed by her scarred arm and has demon blood inside her

Description or setup of Whispering Pines

Snapshot of main character’s life

Overall scene Goal:

Establish main villain or threat

Introduction of Main Characters

First Inciting Incident

Set the tone, mood, type, and scope of the storyline. World Building: A “before” snapshot: Show main character normal world and usual routine.

What questions were left unanswered? What new ones were created?
Where did the wolves come from? Why are they attacking innocent people? What can the main character do to solve the mystery without being killed herself?

Next is an outline I used to plot my novel, UNDER SUNLESS SKIES (book two of the Starlight Saga) and a more in-depth scene summary. I revised my old scene outline (from above) to this more detailed one below based on the plot handbook, TAKE YOUR PANTS OFFby the talented Libbie Hawker.


Opening Scene

Date / Time of day:
Sunday early afternoon 

Scene Summary:
Sloane learns about her hybrid heritage while she deals with her recent heartbreak. She discovers that her absentee father is actually a hybrid and her mother is a human. According to hybrid law, this union is forbidden among their alien clan (conflict). Her parents never told Sloane the truth (she no longer trusts them now) about her father’s origins. Since her father’s powers were so rarely used, her parents thought they could live as a normal family undetected by the other hybrids and Sector Thirteen.

Sloane tells her parents that Arcane mentioned he was searching for a hybrid that had broken their laws (stakes/ dilemma) in Winter Haven.

Sloane trusted her parents, but they lied to her about her heritage and potentially put her and her brother in danger. She doesn’t feel like she can trust them now (conflict / tension) and their relationship is fragmented. (Ties in with theme)

Sloane rushes from the living room, crying and claiming the realization is too much. Plus, she’s still dealing with just being dumped hours before by Hayden.

Characters in scene:
Sloane (MC), Jonah, mom (Karen), and dad (David)

Scene Location:
MC’s house

Opening Hook:
MC learns that she is a hybrid, and she realizes that Arcane is hunting her father. She is unsure she can trust Arcane not to hurt her family or turn them into the GB. However, Sloane is hopeful now that Hayden will want to get back together since she is a hybrid, too.

How does it move the plot forward?
(Minor inciting incident) This shocking revelation is game-changer in the MC’s world.

What is the MC’s goal in this scene?
To try to absorb all this new info about herself and her family.

Opposition (obstacles / conflict)?
No longer completely trusts her parents. 

Does it reveal any new characterization?
Reveals theme “secrets” and character flaw “trust”

What important information did the reader learn?
That Sloane’s family had a secret. Sloane has a chance of getting back together with Hayden.

What questions are left unanswered? Or what new ones are created?
What will Sloane do with this information? How will it change her life? Is her family in danger from Arcane? Will she be able to get the love of her life back?
Okay, now you have an idea on how to go through your own manuscript and do an easy chapter-by-chapter outline for every scene in your novel. If you cannot answer these simple questions for each scene and/or chapter, then perhaps that particular scene needs to be cut from the narrative or heavily revised. Not every scene needs conflict, but it should include some tension to propel the plot forward.

If you have any questions pertaining to my chapter/scene outline, please leave a comment or send me an email, and I'd be happy to help!

These blog posts are awesome at explaining plot structure in more detail and how to write a page-turner. Please visit these blogs: "Throw Obstacles at Your Characters"  and "Two Things Every Novel Needs" and this one "Five Plot Structures for Bestselling Novels" by author Katja L Kaine on Cate Hogan's blog.


Also, read THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PLOTTING A NOVEL for more inspiration!

Awesome Tips on Crafting a Riveting Story that instantly Grabs Your Reader...

This manual offers amazing techniques for creating stronger beginnings and ways to write a page-turning plot for your fiction novel. Writers will learn how to make their first pages so intriguing with chapter “hooks” that the reader won’t be able to put the book down.

Easy to follow step-by-step instructions on creating a comprehensive plot with the three-act structure using the dynamic templates provided in this guidebook, whether you’re a plotter or more of a pantser. Each chapter provides comprehensive tips on storytelling, which every writer needs to plot like an experienced pro without a complicated outline.

Topics in this book include...

    6 Popular Genre Plot Templates
    3 Extensive Character Templates
    Tools to Create a Page-Turning First Chapter
    Advice on Writing Scene Hooks
    Simple Breakdown on Story Structure
    Advice from Bestselling Authors on Plotting

Also, writers will gain the tools needed to blend character goals within any scene to improve pacing, and instantly strengthen the narrative. Plus, bonus advice on self-publishing and genre word counts. Whether you’re writing an intense thriller or a sweeping romance, all novels follow the same basic outline described in detail within this book.
 ~ ~ ~
If you have any questions pertaining to scene structure in a fiction novel, please leave a comment.


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