Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Building a Novel Plot With Plotto

If you have never heard of Plotto before, it is a book that was originally published in 1927 by William Wallace Cook. Before you groan at the thought of having to purchase yet another book on writing, Plotto is available online for free.

Read Plotto for free at the Online Library.

Plotto turns plotting into a game and I am going to show you how you can quickly build a plot using this book.

1. Choose Clauses

Your first step is to choose your 3 “clauses”.

Clause A represents your main character.
Clause B is the start of the action - the “something” that happens.
Clause C is the carry-through to the ending.

I am going to use the book to choose my 3 Clauses:

A-13: A person influenced by the occult and the mysteries.
B-54: Becoming involved in a puzzling complication that has to do with an object possessing mysterious powers.
C-2: Emerges from a serious entanglement.

2. Start to Build

If you followed along with me through step 1, we now have the most basic direction of a plot. The next step is to build up the plot using the suggestions within the book and also using our own ideas.

Open a new file, type in your chosen clauses and begin to build your plot directly.

Since I chose, in Clause B, number 54, Plotto suggests I go to Mystery 1379 in the book and I have altered what the book suggests..


  • A woman influenced by the occult and the mysteries. She investigates strange phenomena in the hopes of understanding her own dark past.
  • Learns of mysterious object found in a certain place.
  • Person dies suddenly. Death is tied to mysterious object.
  • Solves mystery and emerges from a serious entanglement.

I am very happy with this basic plot outline and I am now finished with Plotto.

3. Begin Writing or Do More Plotting

What we have right now is the most basic idea for our story. If you choose, you can start writing your first draft immediately, creating your characters and the finer details as you go. Or, you can begin conforming the story to the modern dramatic plot.

Using the modern dramatic plot:

  • Story’s Intent (what the main character want’s to achieve): To solve the mystery of object found.
  • Start of Tension: Learns of mysterious objects found in a certain place. Person dies suddenly. Death is tied to mysterious object.
  • Small Victory: Main character discovers the history of the object.
  • Intense Action: Believes she’s discovered how to destroy the object before it kills another person.
  • Disappointment: All attempts to destroy the objects fail.
  • Disaster: Another person dies because of the object and a third person become deathly ill. If the object is not destroyed, he will die.
  • Resolution: Main character discovers way to destroy the object. Object is destroyed. Sick character becomes well again. Main character gets a call about another strange finding and goes to her next adventure.

4. Fill in the Details

Now we have a very thorough story outline that follows the points of the dramatic plot. We can either begin writing our book or we can start filling in more details in our plot until the outline turns into a first draft.

**It took me less than an hour to create this basic plot and write this post at the same time.

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