1) Basic plot structure: beginning, middle, end

a.  Beginning

A beginning is that point in a story from which everything follows.  Nonadherence to this major concept is a common misstep by an author.  In essence, don’t leap back in time to the past to start a story.  Strive for unity that doesn’t jerk the reader back and forth in time.


* The first sentence must be interesting.

* Always try to introduce major characters first, or early, in the work.

* Authors should begin with as much knowledge of where the story is going as possible; readers need a sense of story destination.

* Exceptions are published, but in general, stories should: (1) never start with a flashback, and (2) never start with the past perfect tense (he had plastered himself and his motorcycle against a brick wall) or (3) a negation (Billie could never climb the play gym as well as Suzie).

* Dialogue essential to the reader can provide effective characterization, but does not easily set the place, tone, and direction of a story.  Avoid using dialogue to start a story.

b.  Middle

This is the arc of the story, where it is essential to stay on the story track.


1) Avoid temptations to wander in writing scenes and don’t slip in ideas not important to the story.

2) Be sure character emotional and action progression is smooth and logical.

3) Keep looking for the theme.

4) Don’t use extraneous detail.

5) Don’t fall into excessive narrative description of your story.

6) Stay in the scene wherever possible to maintain drama and a sense of movement.

c.  End

An ending is the point after which nothing else of significance happens in the story.


* Endings must have elements of surprise, yet must not be too surprising.  An ending should be reasonable, yet not too predictable.  An ending should not be too devastating or too redemptive, but should have some recognizable—and memorable—change in one or more major characters.