In a recent post, I wrote about my first writers conference. I attended three sessions which were extremely engaging, and I promised I’d share with you what I learned. You can find my post about Session #1 here.
Now, I’ll do my best explaining the Plot Clock, taught by Jamie Morris, which was probably the most useful thing I learned during the entire conference (this happens to be what I’ve been struggling with lately).
The Plot Clock gives writers the opportunity to decide whether or not their idea for a novel is worth pursuing. Its purpose: to determine whether your story has all the elements it should.
The Plot Clock is a circle divided into four sections. Your starting point is at the top of the circle. (Move clockwise around the circle.)
- Ordinary World (the main character’s life circumstances prior to her story’s start)
- Author establishes the MC’s skills, strategies, strengths/weaknesses, need/goal
- Establishes setting and introduces characters
- Inciting incident takes place in Act I
- The first glimpse the MC (or the reader) gets of the Special World
Binding Point: the moment when the MC finds himself/herself committed to the Special World
- Point of no return
- Signals the end of Act I and the beginning of Act II
- Special World (the new circumstances presented by the story and through which the MC struggles on her way to making a change)
- Tests/challenges FAILED
- The MC’s strategies/survival skills (established in Act I) may not work
Low Point Entry: the period when the demands of the Special World have brought the MC to his/her knees
- MC struggles
- MC experiences true change
Low Point Exit: MC has experienced internal change or has made a meaningful sacrifice
- Signals the end of Act II
- Continuation of Special World
- “messy middle”
- Tests/challenges PASSED
- MC is getting stronger, developing new strategies/skills
Turning Point: the event which forces the MC to face the final battle of the Climax
- Signals the end of Act III and the beginning of Act IV
- Climax (the “battle to end all battles,” occurring between the MC and the antagonist)
- The MC does not necessarily have to win the battle
- Denouement (day-new-ma: literally “unknotting.” The final resolutions of the intricacies of the story and the lives of the characters)
- Need/goal of the MC is satisfied
I believe the Plot Clock is a fantastic tool for writers. It is a reminder that the protagonist of the story is always working toward something, moving forward, even if he/she faces stumbling blocks and conflict along the way. Every character and every scene should make it around the Plot Clock. By using the Plot Clock to quickly outline a scene, you can be sure you aren’t wasting words or time because you have already identified its purpose in the story.
Thank you, Jamie Morris!
Other Helpful Articles/Links:
(*Keep in mind that the Plot Clock has various formats – it is also called the Three or Four Act Structure)