How to write the plot of a story

April 8, 2021   Tags: , 🕑 5 minutes read

Writing the plot for a story is never simple. If you are just starting out writing fiction, a template can help you get started and structure your outline.

So many people want to write a book or movie, but find it hard to structure their story. They aren’t sure how to write the plot of a book or a screenplay.

The Infographic below is more than just how to write a plot of a story – it reads like the plot summary of a typical fiction story, or even of an epic non-fiction story.

I am sure you can easily read adventure, fantasy and sci fi into the plot outline presented, especially because I used language straight out of an adventure novel. But for the most part, even a romance or detective novel follows this formula. Or the screenplay for a romantic film or even many comedies or other movies.

A story need not use all these elements, or place them in this exact order. But most fiction (and some non-fiction) books on the New York Times Best Sellers list include most of these elements in roughly this order. A complex story will have many of these plot elements repeat, sometimes several times. In fact, a complex story might have several plots moving along simultaneously.

A while ago, I was reading Son of a Witch: Volume Two in the Wicked Years by Gregory MaGuire (highly recommended, but best to read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West first). The first half of the book runs through two threads, one past and one present, and the present thread divides in two to follow Liir along one and the two traveling maunts along the other.

One of my favorite books of all time, The Eight by Katherine Neville, follows two stories, one in the present time (during the oil crisis of a few decades ago), and one historical, during the French Revolution.

Both these books use pretty much all of the elements presented in the plot outline below multiple times, and at times simultaneously along the different threads. Great reads, both, for students of how to write a book with multiple plot lines, by the way.

And great reads to see how to write a plot for a story of any genre.

(Story on how to write the plot of a story continues below the Infographic.)

Infographic on how to write the plot of a story

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Must the plot of a book be so dramatic?

This is just a generic plot summary. Mark Twain once said, “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Nevertheless, in real world story plots (our own lives), we rarely find such superlatives. There is good and kindness in everyone, and there is mischief and ill-will in everyone, too. And even in the most fantastic of stories, we like to see a little balance shine through.

  • We like to see our Valiant Hero vulnerable, perhaps a bit socially awkward or over self-confident, or caught off guard. We like to see them doubt their ability to prevail, or fall hopelessly in love.
  • We like to see that the Forces of Evil are not completely evil, that somewhere inside remains a seed of compassion and tenderness…seconds before our Valiant Hero annihilates them, of course.

It is true that not every story has all of these components, nor are they always so clear-cut. Sometimes there are more than one Valiant Hero, and they are sometimes working at cross-purposes. Sometimes there is an ambiguous character, who is neither good nor evil – or is somewhat of both.

And the evil might not always be “evil” in the traditional sense. It might simply be an incredible obstacle or a natural disaster. Or a bumbling fool who always gets in the way or tips the apple cart.

And the Quest is not always obvious from the outset. In fact, sometimes we near the end of a story before realizing what the Quest really is about.

Writing the plot of a book or a screenplay is not always that simple. Even if you hire a ghostwriter, it helps if you already have the structure of your tale pretty much organized.

There is plenty of room to play with the plot of a story, plenty of room for creativity in putting your own plot outline together. But if you start with this model, you have a great structure on which to build your story.

If you need help, that’s OK. We know how to write the plot of a novel or movie for you.

Hire a ghostwriter

Start writing with this generic plot for your story

Click here for a transcription of the Infographic on how to write a plot of a story.

It’s a plot!

There’s a plot afoot. And you’ll find it in your next novel.

The End of the World Cometh

The world is heading for cataclysmic disaster. Perhaps the planet will explode. Perhaps true
love will leave. In the context of your story, surely this is the End of the World!

The Noble Quest

Hold on! The End of the World will have to wait. Our Valiant Hero embarks on the Noble Quest to save the day (and the world).

The Roadmap to Victory

The Noble Quest to prevent the End of the World entails certain steps that must be taken. Our Valiant Hero will face challenges. This is the Roadmap to Victory.

Insurmountable Hurdles

Alas! The Forces of Evil never rest. They conspire to ensnare our Valiant Hero and thwart the Nobel Quest.

Supreme Personal Sacrifice

Only by acts of Supreme Personal Sacrifice can our Valiant Hero overcome the Insurmountable Hurdles and advance along the Roadmap to Victory.

Impending Doom

Confounded! The Insurmountable Hurdles have delayed our Valiant Hero. Impending Doom is imminent. Are we too late? Will the Noble Quest fail?

The Stars Aligned

Incredibly, the stars in the heavens align against all odds at one second to midnight. Our Valiant Hero saves the day and delays the End of the World…at least until the sequel.

Unforeseen Rewards

So busy was our Valiant Hero battling the Forces of Evil, that they did not even notice how they blossomed as a result of undertaking the Noble Quest.

A New Normal

With the End of the World but a distant memory, people resume their business and things return to normal. But “normal” is not what it used to be. Nobody touched by the Noble Quest is the same person anymore.

There’s More to Plot Than Just the Plot

A setting
The moral of the story
Point of view

  • Our Valiant Hero
  • Side-kicks
  • Collaborators
  • Forces of Evil
  • Expendable bystanders

Bonus Twists of Plot

  1. What unexpected stroke of luck could befall our Valiant Hero?
  2. How might our Valiant Hero’s personal agenda conflict with the Noble Quest?
  3. What else unexpected?


How do you write the plot of a book or movie?

Why not tell us how you wrote the plot for your last novel or screenplay? Or how you will write the plot for your next novel or screenplay?

Does your plot follow this pattern? Does it deviate? Does your novel feature bonus twists of plot? Please share.

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt

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  1. Sweety Kumari says:
    at 9:53 am


    You are right that writing the plot for a story is never simple and a template can help us to get started and structure the outline.

    You have mentioned the all the important things about how to write the plot of a story, which is very helpful and informative for newbies who want to write the story. I also gained some new things from your post.

    thank you,

  2. Ruhee says:
    at 7:03 am

    Hey David,

    Excellent post. It is worth to read the full article. I am not a story writer but from sometime I am planning to start writing a story. I am really happy to say that I found your article at the right time.

    You are completely right that writing the plot for a story is not an easy task, as we need a template which can help us to get started and structure your outline. You have very well explained about all fiction and non-fiction books and how it’s plot should be written.

    I really love the way of yours’s explaining through giving examples of different novels and also through pictures how to write a plot for a story of any genre. This post is very helpful and informative for the new writers. I learned a lot and hope it will also be fruitful for others. Thanks for making my day, i will definitely share this article with my friends and family so that they can also gain some knowledge of writing a story.

    Good job! Have a nice day ahead!


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