One thing I’ve learned from experience is that it’s vital that you plan before you begin writing a long piece of fiction. There’s nothing worse than coming to a point in a story and realising you have no idea where to go next!
Even discovery writers or “pantsers” usually do some kind of planning.
The simplest way to begin planning is to explore the 5 Ws:
This may seem simplistic but it is vital that you explore these avenues first.
Who is in the story?
You are writing a controlled assessment, not a novel. Keep things easy to manage by having as few characters as possible. If a character doesn’t add to your narrative then you don’t need it.
What is it about? What is the conflict?
Your controlled assessment will be about the topic that has been set, such as “beginnings and/or endings.” Usually the topic will give you a lot of freedom to invent but you must ensure your end product matches the brief.
More importantly, your story must have some kind of conflict. This doesn’t mean there has to be a fight! However, the main character in your story must face some kind of difficulty.
- Internal Conflict – The character has a conflict within him or herself (EG: a struggle with a decision, worry about something he or she has to do).
- Interpersonal Conflict – The character has a conflict with another person (EG: a child disagreeing with a parent’s instructions).
- External Conflict – The character has a conflict with something within nature or society (EG: struggling to survive after an earthquake).
Where is it set?
This is a simple yet important point. You must be aware of where your narrative occurs as this will affect your choice of descriptive detail.
When is it set?
Avoid unusual settings such as changes in time period. It will be a lot more difficult to write a believable story set in Medieval times than in the modern world. Keep it simple!
Do think about what time of year your narrative is set in. This will help you to describe the weather or make references to holidays. A story set at Christmastime will have very different descriptive detail than one set at the height of summer.
Why does the conflict occur?
Conflict is vital to a successful narrative. However, what is also vital is the reason for the conflict. You must consider why the issue has occurred as this will impact on your plot and characters. The idea of a child disagreeing with a parent’s instructions can be explored in different ways. Is it because the child is being unreasonable? Or, could it be because the parent is irrationally afraid of something happening to the child? These two reasons for conflict would create very different stories.
Next time, we’ll look at planning using plot diagrams, as well as using narrative hooks!
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