Dos and Don'ts of Plotting in Fiction Writing

The Dos and Don’ts of Plotting in Fiction Writing

Plotting a novel can sometimes feel like navigating through a maze in the dark. Despite being integral to any successful story, many writers often struggle with constructing coherent and captivating plots.

This article will illuminate the path by revealing practical tips and techniques on ‘The Dos and Don’ts of Plotting in Fiction Writing.’ Ready for the journey? Let’s dive right in!

Common Plotting Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid creating plot holes that can confuse and frustrate readers. Neglecting character arcs leads to underdeveloped and unengaging characters. Start your story with a solid understanding of plot structure for a cohesive and compelling narrative.

Remember to answer the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) to provide clarity and context. Don’t disregard the rules of your fictional world, as it can break immersion for readers. Avoid including subplots that don’t support or enhance the main story, as they can distract from the central narrative.

Lastly, be flexible with your outline instead of rigidly following it to allow room for creativity and inspiration in your storytelling process.

Creating plot holes

Plot holes disrupt your narrative and leave readers feeling unsatisfied. They occur when a storyline lacks logical consistency, causing the plot to unravel. For example, a character making choices that defy their established persona or an unresolved problem that magically disappears without explanation would both be plot holes.

These gaps in logic can make your novel appear poorly thought out or rushed. Your audience wants immersion and believable characters; avoid breaking this trust by meticulously planning each step of your story, ensuring every action has a satisfying cause and effect.

Neglecting character arcs

Neglecting character arcs is a familiar mistake writers make when plotting their stories. Character arcs are essential in fiction writing because they allow readers to connect with the characters deeper and see them grow and change throughout the story.

Without proper development of character arcs, the plot can feel flat and unengaging. To avoid this, it’s important to give your characters clear goals and motivations that drive their actions and decisions.

Consider how their experiences will shape them throughout the story and ensure they have growth or transformation moments. By prioritizing character arcs, you can create more compelling and relatable stories that resonate with readers.

Starting without a solid understanding of the plot structure

To craft a compelling story, starting with a solid understanding of plot structure is crucial. Without this foundation, your narrative can easily fall flat and leave readers unsatisfied.

A well-structured plot provides the framework for your story and ensures that events unfold logically and engagingly.

One common mistake writers make is diving into their story without first outlining the key elements of their plot. This lack of planning can result in meandering plots, confusing timelines, or unresolved conflicts.

By taking the time to establish the beginning, middle, and end of your story, you’ll create a roadmap that keeps you on track throughout the writing process.

Consider using templates or guidelines for structuring your novel or screenplay. These tools help break down your story into clear acts or chapters, ensuring a cohesive flow from start to finish.

Alongside an overarching structure, it’s essential to map out individual scenes within each act to maintain pacing and tension.

Forgetting the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why)

In fiction writing, it’s crucial not to overlook the importance of the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why). These fundamental questions serve as a foundation for your story and help provide clarity and structure.

Who are your characters? What are their goals and motivations? When does your story take place? Where does it unfold? And most importantly, why does it matter? By addressing these essential elements early in your plotting process, you can ensure that your narrative is well-developed and captivating for readers.

Neglecting the 5 W’s can lead to confusion or inconsistencies within your story, so give them the attention they deserve.

Disregarding the rules of your fictional world

In fiction writing, it’s crucial to establish and adhere to the rules of your fictional world. These rules set the parameters for your story, providing a foundation that keeps readers immersed in your narrative.

Whether crafting an elaborate fantasy universe or creating a contemporary setting with its unique quirks, disregarding these rules can lead to confusion and disengagement from your audience.

So, make sure you define the boundaries and limitations of your world early on and consistently abide by them throughout your novel. By doing so, you’ll maintain coherence within your story and keep readers captivated by the consistent logic that underpins it all.

Including subplots that don’t support the main story

Subplots can be a great way to add depth and complexity to your story, but ensuring they serve a purpose is important. Including subplots that don’t support the main story can confuse readers and distract them from the central plot.

To avoid this, consider how each subplot connects to the main storyline. Ask yourself if it enhances character development, contributes to the overall theme, or adds tension and conflict.

Ensuring that every subplot serves a clear purpose and complements the main story creates a more cohesive and engaging narrative for your readers. Don’t underestimate the power of well-planned subplots – they can elevate your storytelling.

Remember: Maintaining consistency within your fictional world is crucial when incorporating subplots. This means staying true to established rules and limitations in your story universe.

Avoid introducing elements or characters that feel out of place or irrelevant to the main plot or any of the subplots. Each element should fit seamlessly into your narrative, adding value rather than confusion.

Rigidly following an outline without flexibility

Rigidly following an outline without flexibility can stifle the creative process and limit the organic growth of your story. While outlines provide structure and guidance, remaining open to new ideas and allowing your characters to evolve naturally is essential.

Sometimes, unexpected plot twists or character developments can arise during the writing process that may require deviating from your original outline. By being willing to embrace these changes, you can create a more dynamic and engaging story that keeps readers hooked from beginning to end.

So, don’t be afraid to veer off course when necessary, and let your imagination guide you towards exciting new possibilities for your fiction writing journey.

The Do’s of Plotting in Fiction Writing

Establish clear goals and motivations for your characters. Develop a well-defined plot structure using the 5 W’s to create a solid foundation for your story. Maintain consistency within your fictional world and include compelling subplots that enhance the main story.

Want to learn more about compelling plotting in fiction writing? Read on!

Establish clear goals and motivations for your characters

In fiction writing, it is crucial to establish clear goals and motivations for your characters. This not only gives them purpose but also drives the plot forward. By understanding what your characters want and why they want it, you can create engaging and relatable storylines that keep readers hooked.

Whether it’s a quest for revenge, a search for love, or a journey of self-discovery, their desires should be genuine and authentic. Ensuring that each character has distinct goals and motivations adds depth to your storytelling and allows readers to connect with them on a deeper level emotionally.

So take the time to delve into your characters’ inner lives and give them compelling reasons to pursue their dreams or overcome obstacles in pursuit of their desires.

Create a well-defined plot structure

Writers must create a well-defined plot structure to craft a compelling and coherent story. This means organizing your narrative in a way that flows logically and keeps readers engaged from start to finish.

One practical approach is establishing the central conflict or goal early on, providing a clear direction for your story. Incorporate rising action that builds tension and suspense, leading up to the climax, where all the major conflicts are resolved.

Don’t forget about the resolution and tying up loose ends, either.

Another vital aspect of plot structure is pacing. Varying the pace of your story can help maintain reader interest throughout. Introduce moments of high intensity alongside slower, more introspective scenes to give your readers room to breathe before diving back into the action.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of foreshadowing and subplots in enhancing your main storyline. Subplots can add depth by exploring secondary characters or introducing additional challenges for your protagonist.

Foreshadowing allows you to drop hints or clues that make critical revelations or twists feel satisfyingly earned.

Use the 5 W’s to develop a solid foundation for your story

To craft a compelling and well-structured story, it’s essential to use the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) as your guiding principles. These fundamental questions help you develop a solid foundation for your plot by ensuring that essential elements are covered.

Who are your characters? What is their goal or motivation? When and where does the story take place? And most importantly, why should readers care about these characters’ journeys?

Addressing these questions early in your planning process establishes clear parameters for your story and lays the groundwork for engaging storytelling. The answers to these questions provide crucial details that shape character development, world-building, and overall plot progression.

When you clearly define each of the 5 W’s about your story, you enable yourself as a writer to create depth and complexity within your narrative. This foundation allows for more natural conflict resolution and foreshadowing while keeping readers hooked on tension-building techniques.

Maintain consistency within your fictional world

Consistency within your fictional world is crucial for creating an immersive reading experience. Every aspect of your story, from the rules of magic or technology to cultural norms and geography, should remain consistent throughout the narrative.

Readers invest their time and emotions in your story, so it’s important not to confuse or contradict them by introducing sudden changes that don’t align with the established world.

To maintain consistency, carefully develop the parameters of your fictional world before you start writing. Consider how different elements interact and ensure they follow a logical framework.

For example, if you establish that magic exists in your world, ensure its limitations and consequences are consistently applied.

Include compelling subplots that enhance the main story

Compelling subplots can add depth and complexity to your main story, keeping readers engaged and invested in your characters’ journeys. These subplots should seamlessly intertwine with the central plot, enhancing it rather than detracting from it.

By introducing secondary storylines that are relevant to your main narrative and contribute to character development or thematic exploration, you can create a more immersive reading experience.

Whether it’s a romantic subplot, a personal quest for one of your characters, or an unexpected twist that adds intrigue, these additional narratives should complement the overarching story while still offering their unique elements.

The Don’ts of Plotting in Fiction Writing

Avoid relying solely on plot twists for excitement. Develop your characters carefully, ensuring their development is not neglected in favor of plot progression. Don’t introduce unnecessary or confusing elements to the story; focus on crafting a well-structured narrative arc.

Stay flexible and allow your story to evolve organically without forcing it to fit a predetermined outline. And always remember the importance of pacing and tension in keeping readers engaged.

Read the full article to Discover what not to do when plotting in fiction writing.

Don’t rely solely on plot twists for excitement

One common pitfall in fiction writing is relying too heavily on plot twists to create excitement. While a well-executed twist can undoubtedly intrigue your story, it shouldn’t be your readers’ sole source of excitement.

Instead, focus on building tension and conflict throughout your narrative, allowing the plot twists to enhance the overall experience rather than carrying it entirely. By developing strong characters, engaging conflicts, and compelling subplots, you can ensure that your story keeps readers engaged from beginning to end.

So don’t put all your eggs in the plot twist basket; instead, aim for a balanced approach that keeps readers hooked with every page turn.

Don’t neglect character development in favor of plot progression

One common mistake aspiring writers make is neglecting character development in favor of plot progression. While a compelling and engaging plot is important, investing time and effort into developing well-rounded and relatable characters is equally crucial.

Your readers want to connect with the people driving the story, so take the time to explore their emotions, motivations, and growth throughout the narrative. By prioritizing both plot progression and character development, you’ll create a more immersive reading experience that will keep your audience captivated from beginning to end.

Strong characters can elevate even the most basic plots into something extraordinary.

Don’t introduce unnecessary or confusing elements to the story

As a writer, it’s important to remember that simplicity is often crucial in storytelling. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in plotting your fiction writing is introducing unnecessary or confusing elements to your story.

Your readers want a clear, cohesive narrative they can easily follow and engage with. When you start adding random plot twists or convoluted subplots without purpose, you risk losing your audience’s interest and leaving them feeling confused.

Instead, focus on developing a strong central story arc that flows naturally and keeps your readers hooked from beginning to end. By avoiding unnecessary complexity, you’ll create a more enjoyable reading experience for your audience while allowing room for surprises and intrigue within the context of your well-crafted plot.

Don’t force your story to fit a predetermined outline

One of the most significant mistakes writers can make is forcing their story to fit into a predetermined outline. While having an outline can help organize your thoughts and guide your writing process, it should never restrict or limit your creativity.

Your characters and story should have room to grow and evolve naturally, and sometimes that means deviating from your original plan.

Pushing your story into a predefined structure can result in rigid, predictable plots that lack depth and excitement. Allow yourself the flexibility to explore new ideas, unexpected plot twists, and interesting character developments that may arise organically as you write.

Don’t overlook the importance of pacing and tension

Maintaining a well-paced and tension-filled story is crucial in fiction writing. The pace of your narrative should ebb and flow, keeping readers engaged from start to finish. Too slow, and you risk losing their interest; too fast, and important details may be missed.

Introduce conflict early to hook readers, then carefully build tension throughout the story by creating obstacles and challenges for your characters. Utilize suspenseful moments, cliffhangers, or unexpected twists to keep readers eagerly turning the pages.

Finding the right balance between pacing and tension creates a captivating story that keeps your audience hooked until the very end.


In conclusion, mastering plotting in fiction writing is essential for creating captivating and well-structured stories. By avoiding common mistakes such as plot holes, neglecting character arcs, and disregarding the rules of your fictional world, you can craft a compelling narrative that keeps readers hooked from start to finish.

Remember to establish clear goals and motivations for your characters, use the 5 W’s to develop a solid foundation, and include compelling subplots that enhance the main story. With these dos and don’ts in mind, you’ll be on your way to crafting an unforgettable novel or story.

Happy writing!


1. What are the dos and don’ts of plotting in fiction writing?

Plotting in fiction writing includes creating a clear and compelling central conflict, developing well-rounded characters, planning the story structure, and ensuring consistency in pacing and tension. The don’ts include overcomplicating the plot with unnecessary subplots, neglecting character development, relying solely on twists without proper setup or foreshadowing, and rushing through important moments without allowing for proper emotional impact.

2. How can I create a compelling central conflict in my story?

To create a compelling central conflict, consider what is at stake for your protagonist and what they desire most. Develop obstacles that will challenge their goals and force them to make difficult choices. Ensure that the conflict is meaningful and drives the narrative forward, engaging readers throughout the story.

3. Is it necessary to outline my plot before writing?

While not every writer outlines their plot before writing, having some form of an outline can be incredibly helpful. It allows you to organize your ideas, ensure coherence and logical progression within your story, and avoid getting stuck or losing focus during the writing process. However, if you prefer a more spontaneous writing approach, you can opt for a looser outline or simply jot down key plot points as a reference.

4. How do I avoid falling into common plotting pitfalls?

To avoid common plotting pitfalls in fiction writing:

– Plan your major plot points but remain open to unexpected developments that may arise during the creative process.

– Focus on character-driven plots rather than relying solely on external events.

– Avoid excessive exposition or info-dumping by integrating information seamlessly into dialogue or action.

– Maintain consistent pacing throughout your story by balancing action scenes with quieter moments of reflection or character development.

– Ensure that conflicts are resolved satisfactorily while leaving room for growth or change in your characters.

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