This is the final post for my study in classics series! (And, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the title of this series is based off of the first Sherlock Holmes book: A Study in Scarlet) It’s been fun focusing on each of the four elements of storytelling and I hope you’ve been able to get a lot of good information out of them. Today’s post to wrap up the series will be studying plot through the one and only… Sherlock Holmes!
Sherlock Holmes is a legend in the world of literature. His great mind and deduction skills built him a name in the fictional realm. The way he can solve a mystery is sensational! Which is why I thought this would be a great example for plot.
Plot is obviously a pretty important part of storytelling. However, I think sometimes writers focus too heavily on plotting when more of their attention should be spent on characters. Character driven stories will win over plot driven stories in my book any day.
That being said, plot is still an important part of your story and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But how do we go from the messy plot bunny idea to a gorgeously planned out story? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?
First of all, you need a plan. Unless you’re a discovery writer and plan to learn the plot as you go, you have to know what you’re doing going into the plotting process. This step by step process might look different for each individual and that’s okay. In fact, I encourage you to try out several different methods in order to find the one that fits best for you and your process. There are more than enough methods out there for you to experiment with, my only word of caution is to not feel you have to follow any certain one to a T. Play around and have fun! Find what works best for you.
So with those words of caution aside, let’s get into a quick rundown of what my plotting process looks like.
I still enjoy experimenting with new methods whenever I embark on a new project to plot, but below are the first three things that I have begun implementing.
A premise is the basics of your story in one to three sentences. It’s the foundation in which you will build the rest of your story on. This is the first step that I take whenever I come up with any story idea. Whenever I write down an idea for a plot bunny, I start with the premise. You don’t have to overcomplicate this or make it too hard! At this stage your story is still little more than a messy plot bunny so don’t expect too much. Still, a premise will help you jumpstart your plotting process.
#2: Character Development
Next it’s time to get to know your character. Like I said earlier, a character driven story will always trump a plot driven story so take the time to get to know your main character and fully flesh them out until they feel as if they’re living and breathing. But don’t stop there, take some time with the side characters as well and find out their quirks as well as what makes him or her tick. You don’t have to spend this much time on every single character in your book, but I recommend developing as many characters as you feel you have time or want to. Your story will benefit from it.
Now it’s time to outline your story. Personally, I use the 3 act story structure to outline my novels and have loved it so much. You will have to find what fits best for you and your process however. Once I’ve used the 3 act story structure to create a bullet point list for my plot, I start on chapter summaries. Chapter summaries are a new thing I’ve recently experimented with and fell in love with. I thought I would hate writing out chapter summaries and was always against the idea but, once I gave it a try, I haven’t gone back. Again, you have to decide for yourself if this is a good fit for you. But always remember to have fun throughout each step of the process and enjoy this story you’re creating! Only you can tell this story.
So how does all of this correlate with Sherlock Holmes? Well, I thought what better way to show plot than through a well developed mystery. Because, let me tell you, plotting a mystery novel is hard work. Very hard work. I attempted the feat earlier this year and just about lost what little sanity I have left. It’s much harder than you might think.
With mysteries, you have to have a problem. In a murder mystery this would be a dead body. Then the characters have to find a solution to the problem, a.k.a. the murderer. The same goes for plotting. Whenever you plot a story, you have to have a problem that the characters will then solve throughout the story.
My advice is to study mystery books and use that knowledge you learn to plot your own stories whether they be a mystery or not. And my recommendation? Start with Sherlock Holmes. 😉
Have you ever plotted a mystery before? What does your plotting method look like? Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes whether that be the books, TV series, or movie?