9-Squares to Plotting Fiction

I can’t take credit for this post. All credit goes to the amazing Deana Barnhart for her original post on the 9-Squares, and she, in turn, got the information from Verla Kay. If you haven’t checked out either of those lady’s websites, you need to.

I used Verla’s Plotting Template for the past two books I wrote and I’m using it for my next book. It seems to work well. I don’t over plot (leaving room for creativity) and it gives me a great guideline to stick to. I took the 9-steps and created an Excel doc. (click on the “9-Squares” below)

9 Squares Each of the plot points are described shortly, leaving enough room to jot notes. Feel free to use the document!

The following is from Verla on the 9-Steps for Plotting Fiction

1 Triggering event

First thing’s first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don’t make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.

2 Characterization

Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn’t an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.

3 First major turning point

By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.

4 Exposition

You’ve earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here’s where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist’s darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.

5 Connect the dots

Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist’s
revelation in Box Eight. That’s a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.

6 Negative turning point

Here’s where that bomb explodes and all (Satan’s home) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.

7 Antagonist wins

The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.

8 Revelation

Of course! The protagonist’s revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.

9 Protagonist wins

The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character’s resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.

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