Creating Complex Storylines for a Novel You Will Finish | Lindsey Backen | Skillshare

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Creating Complex Storylines for a Novel You Will Finish

teacher avatar Lindsey Backen, Bringing Stories to Life

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (40m)
    • 1. Introduction to Plotlines

    • 2. Beginning with "What If"

    • 3. Creating Your Basic Plot

    • 4. Adding Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Conflicts to Your Plot

    • 5. Adding Supporting Storylines to Your Plot

    • 6. Adding Romantic Interests and Enemies

    • 7. Finding Your Master Plot

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About This Class

Do you have trouble creating compelling storylines that carry your plot to the end of your draft without running out of steam? In this series of videos, I will show you how to add depth and layers to turn a simple plot into a full-bodied storyline that continues to grow and evolve as you pen your first draft. Remember, you have a story and only you can write it.

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Lindsey Backen

Bringing Stories to Life


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1. Introduction to Plotlines: Hi, everyone. It's Lindsay. Today we're talking about plotlines and how to create a plot line that not only gets you to the end of the story, but one that has plenty of subplots and issues that you can do with throughout, so that you have a completely filled story that has a lot of death, a lot of meat and a lot of maybe twists and turns to it. So today I'm gonna teach you how to take a basic plot line from a general graphs that look somewhat like this a few days. So basic plot lines are made up of a general graft where the excitement in the story is gonna look somewhat like this. It could be variations, depending on what you're working with, what your actual storyline is. So you start here and you begin introducing the character to the reader on immediately. We know that he's got some problems in his life, and he may do something to kind of help and reach his goal that we're setting back here. Usually he'll run into another problem. At this point, it kind of knocks it back down and then he'll work harder, harder, harder and all the problems pile on until the big conflict here, and then it sort of is resolved tapers off. So you're grafting a normal plot? It would look somewhat in this general shape. But what we want to do is create a story that has depths and layers. And I'm going to use this graph to show you how you can at some plus and texture and cultural issues to your story so that instead of just one little story line that you've got going on, you actually have a full body story. And your your story line is eventually going to go. So from here to here, but you're gonna have all of these conflicts that are going through your general story line . 2. Beginning with "What If": nearly every story that you will right usually begins with you asking a question, which is what if some questions that I started my stories with in the past have been What if this girl wakes up in the woods and doesn't know who she is? What if she has absolutely no memory of her life? And what would life look like if you didn't have any context to put it in? What will you go and do with your life? If you couldn't remember, he failed. He succeeded what your goals were and crying out a completely clean slate. That was a concept of one that I'm working on called between another. What if I've used in the past is what if modern day slavery actually was set up and happened in America in the same mannerisms that it happens in other states. So your stuff may have something a core concept in that case of slavery that you want to write about or it might be a random flash. Seen for instance, C. S. Lewis begins credible Zanardi. Siri's just by seeing a fun who was walking through a snowy would with an umbrella and a bunch of parcels. Who would have thought that that would turn into the line, which in order, But it did so a lot of times I have that similar things for between. One of the first ideas I had of it was seeing a girl watching a boy watching a younger boy , and none of them knew that the others were watching. And I thought, Well, that's all was that about so you might have this idea in your head. Your job right now is to find out what that idea is and go ahead and jotted down on a piece of paper. Or if you want to go to my website states to page dot com, you will find a worksheet there that you can print out and follow along as we go. And so to show you how I go about doing applied, I have to tell you, usually my flaws just come into my head and they play and play and play until I write them and usually have more plus and I know what to do with. But for the purposes of this, I'm gonna start pretty much from scratch where I'm gonna be right at the level that you likely are, which is that you probably have someone of an idea what you want, right? But you couldn't just sit down and say, Hey, this is the story line and tell all the details about it. So I'm going to take a side character from my story up between it, actually character. That's not in the present novel, but her story may be playing into the sequel right now. I know that she wants to be a fashion designer. I know that she has a close relationship with her brother. I know that there's a lot of conflict because of a major event that happens in the story, which I looks like you. However, I do not know enough about this person, including what her name is to make up an actual story about if I worked right separate novel on her. So we're now going to pretend like I'm where you write a complete novel on this character. I walk you through the steps that I would use to create a fully emotional story line before I even start right now. With all that said, there are plotters and their cancers in the world and the pastor's like to write by the seat of them hands and just see what happens, and I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I usually have a general idea of the story, plus in some of subplots. But I also allow for the characters to completely hijacked story with because once you develop, the characters announce they will start taking on a life of the room and you will realize that some of the stuff we thought would happen isn't actually in line with their characters , and they begin sort of doing the story themselves, and it starts looking like a movie in your head, so be flexible with this. Make this your plotline, but remember that you don't have to stick to this. If you get you get here and it veers off. Go for it because your characters, once they're fully developed, they will take a life of their own. They will make the story even better than you could ever make it yourself. And it's just one of those things you have to learn to trust as being a writer. At least that's been my experience 3. Creating Your Basic Plot: All right, So now we're going to look at the basic story lines that we have. I'm going to do my story line. Please follow along and do your own as I go through the exercise and you can go ahead and write it out on your piece of paper there. So in this story, I know that the girl wants to be a fashion designer, that she has a very close relationship with her brother and the conflict of the story is that her brother had a very, very artistic eye. He would often give her advice on the dresses and the young that she was making. We worked really well. However, in his family that's not acceptable for men to have an interest in something like that. And he is expected to join the Army, and she knows that his heart is not enjoying the army. So we already have a bit of a set up here that we know a little bit about who she is and who he is. So, my seed of an idea for this character Waas what if this Army guy that was in one of my other stories had this secret desire to be something that was completely not expected from an Army person, and in this case, it would be he wants to do fashion design. So my what ifs in this story would be what Sister is in fashion design. But she's used to having her brothers. I input on her things, and she has to find out if she has enough talent on her own to make it the fashion worked. And so here we might start. Let's call her name Britney. So we've got Renee and her brother breath. And so Renee storylines going to do purple. And so we've got here this basic clock. You need to go ahead and villain. So at the beginning of the story, let's say we're setting it up. She's watching something similar to Project Runway. He's sitting there and they're kind of analyzing together, and you was really realize that first of all, they have a very special bond with each other. But secondly, the right is really into fashion, and that's maybe here this is the part where Brad would go off to war and then run. A conflict for this part could be maybe after they dropped right off training because she knows that he's really not wanting to go to training. He's just out of high school. And so she would have a conflict with the death so hers and hers would be a fight. And with her father. And so from here, of course, we know that her balls to be a fashion designer. So let's say that she is entering some kind of competition. So here she's gonna try to work without Brad and find that she's really been struggling on this. And maybe here we're going to introduce arrival. Yes. So let's say there's another girl here. We're going to introduce a physical, a conflict with a person. So for now, we're just gonna put a little person sitting here so this will be the enemy that she has to confront. But we also know that her real inning would actually be her self confidence and doing What about her brother? Um and so here we might actually have a bit of a low point. Maybe she loses the competition. She has some kind of confrontation with this physical person who eyes going answer. And maybe she starts falling. Maybe she doesn't hear from Brad Brij is kind of disappears. So there's there's no word from bread. And then here she gets home from school and she finds out that Brad has been killed in action. So now she's got not on Lee the conflict moving up toward this competition. It's looming. She's also dealing with the loss of her brother. She's dealing with the anger toward her father, and she's dealing with severe about it, her confidence just falling because not only is her brother not there for this but her brothers never going to be there again. So we just pile on the problems all the way to here, which would be the competition and the resolution moving in here. And so here you can see we've got a fairly basic, you know, up and down story line is not a whole lot to it. It could actually be enough from a novel lies own, and we've already begin to see there's natural conflicts rising out of what we've already done. So the next segment we're going to discuss the different types of conflict that you give your characters that will help drive your story forward and also have these layers and legs . Lt's that will keep your reader engaged 4. Adding Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Conflicts to Your Plot : So now we're going to look at what we already have, and we're going to just create this brain storming pile of ideas. This does not mean that you have to use every single one of these ideas in your story, But we want to get a lot of inspiration, a lot of material for you to pull from, so that whenever you start taking these things and creating your own plotlines and we get subplots, you can start adding all of these ideas that you have increased something that's very substantial. The first kind of concepts we're going to look at is physical, emotional and spiritual concepts. So I'm visible concepts that can deal with the location of the character. You can deal with their status in life. It can don't deal with whether they're very, very rich or very poor. There's a lot of physical elements in your character situation that can create conflict. In this case, we've got physical rennais. Relationship with her father would also be an emotional one, but it could be an actual physical want to because she is sharing the same space that her father lives in. Her father is very military minded so he's probably got somewhat of a strict home life for her, so she's going to have a little bit of physical issues with her father. Let's say she has 1/10 atmosphere at home, all right, and then another physical conflict that you could deal with was one of your character has some defects. What ISS In this case, she could have a physical issue. Maybe she's in a wheelchair. Maybe she suffers from a mental illness such as depression or bipolar ism. So take a moment to jot down any ideas for physical issues that your character may have to face. And it could even be something very subtle. Maybe they have trouble with their eyesight. Or maybe they have a speech problem. Maybe maybe they don't have a car. It doesn't have to be something with their physical bodies, but something with their physical atmospheres. In this case, rennais families middle class. So poverty is not an issue. She's probably got a fairly comfortable life as faras the things in her life, but maybe she's She's young enough that she doesn't have a car, so we could say no car would be an issue. Maybe Brad used to be the one to drive her to the places that she to be to do the things they need to do, because maybe her father doesn't even know about the fashion we don't know. So by this time you should be working on your own list and hopefully you're getting some really good ideas for your characters. The next one would be emotional needs in the acting world. We deal with a lot of emotional needs all across the board, which would be a core need of the character. In this case, her core need would be something. I need confidence. I need enough confidence to to know I can do this on my own. And you could break that down farther and farther farther until you get to the absolute basic human needs that she would be feeling. So we're gonna have emotional ladies, which would be that she leaves confidence. We also know that after it gets to this point where they don't hear from Brad and then find out that threatens to kill, she's going to be almost totally devastated. So she's going to need a lot of emotional support at that point. So we're also dealing with a story that deals with grief on the last would be serial concepts. Now this does not necessarily mean that you need to be a religious person or that everybody has to have a religious idea in it. But a spirit class. It would be just about anything it could be. If you are religious person working some story line or even if you're not religious, is your character. I have characters that have far different belief systems than what I asked the author have , and that's okay. I just let them go because you're not really writing about yourself in stores. You are writing about characters, and your characters are going to come from all different loss of lives and have all different ideas. So he everything about what could be a spiritual issue and in this case may be maybe the spiritual issue that my character is facing is trying to figure out what does happen after death, because this is something that her brother is going to be actively facing here, and then he's actually going to be experiencing it here. And so no matter what her religious beliefs are, she's going to be struggling with that with wondering, Where is he now? What is he doing? Can see me. Is he Is he in heaven? Did he go on or did you just stop existing? So for this case, her spiritual beliefs may be dealing with accepting death. And so, you see, we can all We've already taken this story from something that if I told someone all I'm writing a story about a girl that was in fashion, they might already get different idea. Maybe this is kind of a light hearted romance. But whenever you actually start working with conflict, do you find out there Seems there some pretty deep elements that are already built into the structure of this story line. All right, so now it's your turn. Go ahead. And gray storm as many examples you can think of of physical and emotional leaves that may affect your character. And go ahead, exhaust your list. I'm trying to save time, so I'm just doing a couple here, but right out as many as you can possibly think of. You have a huge list of things that pool, and then go ahead and go back in. Just circle the ones that feel right for your story and the ones that make you the most exciting to write about. 5. Adding Supporting Storylines to Your Plot: And now we're going to finish our brainstorming session with an idea by making a list of subplots that we can't included the story. So after we make this list, we're gonna go back through, and we're gonna add all these other storylines to this basic story. So after we make this list, we've been talking about Tyson storylines that we can add. We're going to choose some of them, and we're gonna go ahead and add into our craft. So the first type of subplot actually could be applied for breath. I think the subplots here. And so depending on how complex you want this story to be, you could write it all from her point of view and keep it pretty simple. Straight forward plot. However, if we wanted Teoh, we could say, You know what? This is actually going to be two peoples story. We're going to include Warm Friend where, instead of being the catalyst, he's going to be a supporting character. So because he'd actually gone, we would have to write those chapters from his point of view. And we did that. He's going to have a story line that's going Teoh. I kind of do its own conflict here. All right. And so let's say for breath storyline, we're going to alternate chapters, so we may start with her chapter within starting here, and then we would have her talking here. But then maybe here we're gonna switch and it's gonna go down to Brad Baby Breads telling his dad or telling your sister that he doesn't want to join the Army. And then right here he is. He's going to boot camp. He's going to war so he can have his own little absolutely and downs here. That is, while he's training. And then maybe this is whatever he arrives in that and so you can see from the reader's point of view, we've already added a couple of peaks because the readers want to be experiencing the high points of these stories. And so here course he's got. Maybe he makes. He makes friends with a couple. So there's another guy, another girl that are part of its troop and and they have become a couple fall in love, and maybe one day they're all walking together, and Brad notices that there's a bomb and he covers the bomb to keep it from exploding, so in in there like he ends up saving the couple and saving a bunch of other people. But that's whenever he passes away. So this could be his relationship with his friends. And then, of course, the explosion is here. But maybe we cut off where? We don't know at this point if, as the readers, whether or not drivers actually jumped in front of this bomb and whether or not he has been killed so you could cut that off there, which would create high tension for the reader. But it would also make a building tension here, as Sister is getting home, discovering the news that he is dead and depending on how we want to take this story, maybe Brad at this point drops off. Or maybe Brad Story goes on, and he is in spirit form, watching his sister but unable to talk to her. So let's just say that at this point he is, uh, he is in between and between is the place that the novel that I pull these characters from actually takes place, and so that story would begin after the story is over. So here we've already added one subplot just by adding a side kicks plot. You also don't even have to make a difference between chapters With the story, let's say we could do the same kind of thing with her best friend, even if the storyline never goes out of her point of view. May be Her best friend is is also wants to be in the competition. So she's really struggling because I love him. She wants to support running, but on another hand she is actually very interested in the same things. And maybe she's actually better than raining. It's so in her case, you know, the first conflict would be their friendship. And then she finds out that they entered the same competition and she realizes that if she this competition, she's actually going to beat right A. And maybe they have a little bit of Tifft here, and she has to decide whether or not her friendship this worth giving up the competition for. And then, of course, when Brad passes away, then there's another player of she needs to be there to emotional support, her friend, but she's also facing a lot of issues in her own life. So you can use this concept of the side characters to make the side characters real people instead of them just showing up, always supporting the story line, make sure that they have storylines of their and that that case, all of the story would be told in grenades. Point of view. But you still have these little peaks that will be woven into our story with her friend. 6. Adding Romantic Interests and Enemies: another subplot that could happen. Romance. It's a great subplot. A lot of people use it. So let's get the red for romance on Find out. Is the Romans anywhere in this story? Naturally, A lot of times the romance would be with the main character who would be Renate so we could introduce a vigil boyfriend or a potential ready airing. Maybe he's pretending to be the boyfriend, but it's really just trying to get into her family's good graces because her family very well, we don't know. So let's say that there is another person and he's going Teoh sort of be here. Maybe. Hey doesn't come until later. He starts right here. Or maybe this couple? No. So he's going to start right here. And then he comes into the stories he's going across about the time that she is running into this person over here. So he's going to come in and bring her to a five point. Maybe he's the what everybody wants, and he asked her on It takes a lot to say. Visit eight. A date request Andi, then going from here, we can create conflict. What if he doesn't show up for his date or he falls in love with the best friend. Or maybe he's a great guy and he's super supported. Or maybe he was friends with Brad. And when Brad dies, it just creates conflict in their relationship. So it doesn't really matter pattern that this one creates. But it is another story line that will be woven into the storylines. And so, you see, we already had multiple things going, and remember, you can, because this complex is you want. You can make this as easy as you want, and eventually we're gonna have one story line that goes all way through so you will be following all of these patterns. But you can kind of used them to make sure the maker of the main story plot has this nice flow of exciting things that will drive another subplot that you can have would happen with the physical enemies. In this case, we've got the rival that's going for the same competition that she is. And so this girl's story isn't going to really leave all the way through, but it can add a nice little conflict here, so her story may be starting to conflict here. and then maybe they're having catfights all the way through. And of course, it's going Teoh level off there so you can add as many layers as you want and you could see that instead of having the basic story line. Now we have a lot of stuff going on to the point where it might be getting a little scary for you. 7. Finding Your Master Plot: all right, so now we're going to take this chaos and create some sort of order into it. Now we were using flexible plot line. It would be a little bit easier because you can take the sticky notes or different layers of things and kind of piled on top of each other and then a new them and figure out how corporate's all these elements into one chapter. For now, we're going to use it a little bit different because I don't have Let's say we're doing the opening chapter. This will be the opening chapter. So we're gonna look at the story, plots here and kind of figure out we have to set up the scene. So the first thing we're to do is establish the relationship between the siblings. So maybe we got her sitting on the couch. She's watching Project Runway and her brother comes in. Maybe he's teasing her at first when Dad is in the room. But when that leaves the room, then he actually started sitting down checking it, and you realize this guy actually knows stuff. So right now, right, Diego, First chapter. We're setting up the conflict to die. We can set up the Army things. We can set up the odd dream to be a caution desire. So that would be a good place for chapter one. Chapter two would be brand going off to war. So this could be a car seen so physically they're dropping bread off. And maybe she's telling Brad about this upcoming competition, and maybe Brad makes her promise that she will be in the competition for about. And so we're gonna look here to see we've already done the fight with Dad. Breath is off to war bread telling sister, maybe we want to go ahead and introduce a little bit of the best friend if we're gonna go with that story, like so here. You could either introduced the boyfriend or best friend, depending on which way you're going, We're gonna go. That's right. So here, we're gonna see Okay, best friend. She's very supportive of the girls kind of interest in the same stuff. Here we go. All right, so But right now we're we've seen a little bit of conflict. It may be enough to pull in the reader, but probably you want to throw in something a little bit raised the stakes a little bit more. So here. If we were going into Brad's story, we could actually go into a chapter from his one you. So I'm gonna historian decided to do a potential story for her on this side if we decided not to do right. Actual story. So, Brad, um, Brad movie already camp? Yes, it's taken away. It's pretty sound in the world because that's what they do have a camp can, and maybe he meets the couple or meet the guy from the OK, But if you don't want handle multiple viewpoints, maybe you are going to go. Well, I don't really want that. So I want another conflict. So instead, we're gonna do. Chloe needs the boy. So let's say on the way back, um, Khloe and earn And maybe your guys home now living with the old Army guys is he's still on campus and maybe she meets. She needs a guy that's there for a possible recruits, but he's still in high school, so that would be a little bit later. But maybe they kind of share moments of you know, what happens when your dad group in the army and how strict they are or something. Okay, so here, we're gonna have the next one would be. Maybe he asked her for a date, and maybe her dad doesn't improve. Okay, so let's say he's after her date, and he did that on the first day because, you know, he's cool like that. So now there is the secrets days. So we're gonna look at these elements here, and we know that she's coming up closer on the competition. We know she's about to meet arrival, and we know that Brad is about to meet a couple so we could even set up. Maybe she is slacking. I'm her design because she decided to go on a date instead of staying home and working on it. And maybe something happens on this date. Maybe they break down and her father finds out if he's a good guy, maybe he is inappropriate with her. So just put conflict of in general. Um, maybe they break up. Maybe there's a misunderstanding. You There's a lot of stuff you can play within this. Just go. All right. But maybe she finds out he's a pacifist who does. And so, in this case, if you were doing grass story. This would be where he is in training. Maybe he has a conflict where something happens that makes him realize, you know, I really don't want to do this war. And then maybe he ends up breaking some of the rules, whether or not he's doing a purpose justifying system. Maybe he's helping out his friend. Maybe he takes the blame so his friend doesn't get kicked out. There could be all kinds of stuff, a lot us, many examples. And that's going to create another layer of conflict because his dad is not gonna be happy finding out that he broke these rules. So you can see already as I'm going through this, we're taking elements from here, but it's developing into an orderly plot, but we're finding even more layers of conflict as we go here. All right, so now we're gonna go back to her story and let's just do it here. For those of you that argument Brad's story, she is going to meet her rival. So maybe she gives to this competition and find out that there is on element that she's always struggled with. Maybe they have to use sequins or something, and that's just she's never had the eye for that. And Red, of course, is in training or off Afghanistan or wherever he's out of picture. She can't even ask him for his efforts so she could make her rival. Maybe they have just sort of a subtle conflict in the, uh, the competition. That may be the preliminary competitions, maybe her father. Because of what happened on this secret date. Maybe she is now grounded and her rivals just kind of gloating at school about it or something. So you can see there's still a lot of flexibility in this. And then here, that's gonna be the huge catalyst, which would be Brad's death and this one. I mean, you probably have kiss story here and then her story here and this. Give me Chapter one, Chapter two, or you could alternate or choose either or chapters, but this will be finding out about his death, which would put us Now she's gonna have her stuff here, said she's got to fight with her father that she blends her father for his death. Maybe she tour of the dress because she was upset because Brad wasn't there anymore. And she has to fix this dress and enter the competition anyway. And so you see here got all the stuff you also have. The Brad was missing an action that if you need more conflict here, you could add that in that bride literally just goes quiet and they don't know if he's okay or or if you need more emotional impact, leave it completely unforeseen. You don't even have to write about dimes forgetting and finding out about it. Maybe even in this story, when she finds out about it, maybe she gets off the school bus and she sees that they've come in the Army uniforms to tell the family of the death, and she runs over and literally pushing the man out of the yard. Just go away, go away. Because she knows what he's going to say before he says it. Diplomatic problem, layers of problems. And so how she resolves these layers, he is going to create the conclusion of the story. And also, if you're dealing with bread, you could also extend the story farther and have Brad watching her results and then depending on how much you wanted to go with the lid with the layer that she has to do with his death. That could actually be a substantial part of the book. Or it could be sort of a just part of this overall storm that is happening here. That's really up to you. But if you're gonna playing war into her dealing with his death and going through the grieving process, you can even really go back and forth with her point of view. His point of view as she's grieving and he's trying to leave her with some kind of peace. And then the resolution to the story would be that she does eventually come to terms with it. And he comes to terms with the idea that you can't have a normal life inform on Earth. So that is a storyline. I hope that it has inspired you. I hope that you are so excited about starting this, that you want out of this video right now. Go right. If you have questions, let me know in the notes. Please, please. Please go to the website. Download your stuff. Do this exercise. And I think you're really going to shock yourself how much you find that you have in your head on the story that you've been grappling with in this story that been afraid to even start because you don't know where it's gonna go or you're good enough to do this. You are good enough to do this, so go do it.