Once Upon a Time

Setting up a Story Plan

by Sylvie Kurtz

Once Upon a Time . . .

Once upon a time; the start of a story plan. I discard as many story ideas as I develop.  One way to figure out if a story has enough oomph to carry the weight of a whole novel is to track the basic story line.

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 I start with a flawed character–his fears, his limiting belief, his why–and figure out what situation I could put this character in to attack his flaw in a way he can’t ignore.  (Or the other way around–I have a situation and figure out what character flaw it best attacks and who would most likely have that flaw.)  Then I run through the basic goal/motivation/conflict questions.  If the results jazz me, I move forward with the story.  If not, I either scrap the idea or see if there’s a way to amp up the basic elements.


Basic Questions to Build a Plan:

Who’s the main character?

What limiting belief gets in his way even if he doesn’t realize it does?

What does he want?

Why does he want it?

Why can’t he have it?

Who or what stands in his way?

What’s the worst situation someone like this could find himself in?

What is he willing to do to get what he wants?

How do his actions backfire and complicate things for him?

How does he reframe his limiting belief?

What last action (sacrifice) can he take to show he’s overcome his flaw and deserves to win (or lose)?

I find working up a simple table helps me keep things focused.  I may not fill all the boxes for the antagonist and the other characters, but if I can’t fill them for the main character, the story needs more thought.


Character Main Character Antagonist Character 3

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