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A Little Brother Named Plot

By Expert Author: Roger Peterson

Those little brothers are always stealing our shine. When we finally get good grades in school, there he goes again, throwing a tantrum or getting into trouble, snatching the attention away from us and projecting it onto himself. What a selfish little brat.
Remember how you felt back then? Or maybe you were the little brat yourself. Now, imagine how the elements in your story feel.
You, as the all mighty Mama (or Papa) story writer, have chosen Little Brother Plot over his big siblings Theme, Character and Conflict. They are the ones being responsible; they are ones doing the real work. But you're too busy chasing after Plot that you forget all about the other kids, and how important they are.
It's time to get some dynamics straight.

The plot is the child, you are the parent. Not the other way around.

A common mistake is to focus too much attention on the plot and not enough time on the characters and their transformations. Don't do it.
Instead, start appreciating the big kids a lot more for the heavy lifting they do. You will learn that it's not the plot that needs your undivided attention. It is a shared system of interdependency and priority.
As your characters grow and transform, and as you work to express your theme, the conflicts will expose more of your story. Your plot will naturally unfold or "thicken." Little Brother will realize that he doesn't wear the pants. He'll look up to his big siblings and start following their example.
Try these first steps:
1 Start with a character.
2 Then ask yourself "what does this character need to learn?" Usually a theme will develop.
3 Take that theme, and start thinking of conflicts to put that character to the test.
OR
1 Think of a theme first.
2 Build your characters and their conflicts to express it.
This is how Little Brother Plot wears you out:
"And then this happens...
and then that happens...
and then-okay now what?"
A seasoned editor will tell you that enslaving yourself to a plot is a treacherous road. It's largely hit or miss. It fills your Documents folder with more unfinished stories than finished ones.
If you learn nothing else, learn this:

There is no such thing as a good plot or a bad plot.
Because a plot is not a stand-alone feature. It's not an only child. It is created by you; however, it is shaped by the theme, characters and conflict.
As you develop the big kids, your attention will be more appropriately distributed to the plot, not hogged by it. So relax. Your sequence of events will mature and become stronger without your hovering over it. Your plot is the little brother. Now, put him in his place and he will quit acting up. He will mature and grow just the way he ought to.

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