In his book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction, Ron Benrey points out 13 Plot Elements to create a gripping story. Along with having memorable characters, conflict, and the ability to weave a good yarn, a action-filled story usually contains these 13 elements.
I’m going to take the 13 elements and use C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia as an example.
1. Set up the plot – who, what, where
WWII London with the four Pevensie children. Their father is at war and their mother must send them to stay with a reclusive professor in the country.
2. Hero’s motivation – what does your protagonist want?
Initially, the motivation is to get their minds off of their separation from their mother and the fact that their father is in the war
3. Begin the hero’s quest
Lucy is the first child to enter Narnia, thus beginning part of the quest – the real ‘Plot Point’ of the story is when all four children enter Narnia
4. Change the hero’s direction
The children realize they can’t go back home without Edmond, who is now under the influence of the White Witch.
5. Challenge the hero with problems
The children are chased by wolves, Edmond is threatened to be turned to stone; they are constantly on the run from the witch and toward Aslan.
6. Change the hero’s status
The children realize that they are kings and queens of Narnia when Aslan ‘knights’ them after rescuing Edmond. They must make a decision now, whether to stay and defend Narnia, or go home.
7. Give the hero tougher problems
Peter learns that Aslan will not be around to help fight in the battle against the witch. He is uncertain whether he can defeat the witch or not.
9. Let the hero suffer maximum angst
Easy – Aslan’s death. All seems lost for Narnia when the White Witch slays Aslan in Edmond’s place.
10. Change the hero’s direction
Peter decides to fight anyway…for Narnia, but the White Witch is too powerful for him and nearly kills him
11. Give the hero new hope
Aslan appears, alive from the dead, and the tide of the battle changes.
12. Achieve a win/lose conclusion
Aslan kills the White Witch and those who were wounded are healed by Lucy’s magic vile.
13. Tie up the loose ends
Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy are crowned kings and queens of Narnia. They rule Narnia for many years, but then, while hunting the mysterious White Stag, they find their way back through the wardrobe. They return to their children’s ages and cannot get back to Narnia through the wardrobe…but, the professor gives us a hint at a sequel by telling the children they will not get back to Narnia again through THAT door.
Hope this little outline helps. It really opened my eyes to the basic outline of the story. Now, we all develop stories in different ways. Some of us may use this plotting strategy and a thumbnail sketch instead of a step-by-step approach. For me, I use half/half. I muse a while and then plot…and muse a bit more, and plot some more. Before I begin, I usually know my ending so the plotting structure is a loose guide through the jungles of my story.