There are plenty of methods to plotting out a novel or script. You’re probably most familiar with Freytag’s Pyramid: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. That’s the one I was taught in school. I’d always get confused about the climax, though. The “turning point” or the “point of no return” is how it has been described to me. But is the climax an emotional one, the point at which the protagonist is at his best or happiest? Is it the point at which the protagonist defeats the antagonist? Is it the point at which the protagonist has everything she needs to defeat the antagonist? Maybe I’m the only one who had this confusion.
The 3-Act structure is adhered to in virtually any screenplay.
There’s Donna MacMeans’ W-plot, which charts the emotional journey of the protagonist.
And recently I came across two plotting techniques by Jim Smith in The Writer’s Little Helper, the Tragedy vs. Triumph method and the Ten Scenes method. (If you can grab a copy of that book, buy it.)
Five different methods. And crazy me decided to combine them all into one MOTHER method. It’s called the 8 C’s to plotting, and I hope that it will help some of you writers out there. Today I’ll post the overview, next week I’ll give you printable worksheets, and the weeks following I’ll go into more depth with each C.
The 8 C’s of Plotting: Overview
Think of the 8 C’s as less of a formula and more of a structure for building upon or adapting. The 8 C’s apply to the protagonist’s main storyline, not all of the other storylines, and though all eight usually occur in the same order, the length between them, and the extremity of them will vary among works. Still, I have found in my sampling of plots of novels and films that each has every one of the 8 C’s.
The horizontal line is a line of normalcy. An upwards direction denotes progress. Downward equals crisis.
Prologue—Optional content for the story either placed in the first chapter or (possibly skipped by the reader) in the “Prologue.”
(C1) Captivation—Whatever hooks the reader, making him or her want to keep reading. Occurs within first 5 pages.
Opening—Hint: Make the Status Quo interesting by giving the Hero rooting interests and an unfulfilled desire.
(C2) Change—The inciting incident that starts the story. Life will never be the same. Occurs in the first 10%.
Reaction—The Hero refuses to act or makes unsuccessful plans.
(C3) Complication/Campaign—This forces the hero to act or change plans. Ends Act One, usually 25%.
Preparation and Problems—The Hero learns skills and acquires both allies and enemies. Several small problems occur and are overcome. This is the longest stretch of the book and may include backstory.
(C4) Confrontation—The Hero succeeds against the Antagonist in a small victory.
Elation—The moment of greatest confidence. The midpoint or turning point, at 50%, usually happens either in a moment of reflection here (an internal decision) or during the Collapse (an external impact).
(C5) Collapse—The hero receives a near-fatal blow and plunges into…
Gloom—It can’t get any worse than this (though sometimes it does).
(C6) Comprehension—The awakening. When all hope seems to be lost, the Hero learns new information, regains consciousness, or gets help from someone or -thing. Ends Act Two.
Action—The Hero gets up and fights back with new vigor.
(C7) Curveball—The Hero must overcome an unexpected obstacle.
Final Battle/Final Exam—The climactic scene: a final face-off between the Hero and antagonist, or when the Hero has to prove the theme or how much they’ve grown as a character.
(C8) Culmination—The climactic moment. The Hero defeats the antagonist victoriously. (In Tragedy, the Hero dies.)
Resolution—What happens after the climactic moment; the new normal. (Optional in short fiction, but expected in all fiction)
Epilogue—Extra information to satisfy curiosity about characters or tie up loose ends. (Optional)
Click here for Part 2 & a Printable Worksheet!
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30 thoughts on “The 8 C’s of Plotting: Introduction”
I like how you structured this. it makes alot of things very clear. i will be adding this to my own plotting table
Great! Hope it helps 🙂
Thanks so much for this. As a pantser trying to become more of a plotter, I’m always looking for ways to make it easier for me.
You’re welcome! I am used to being a pantser on my short fiction, but when I tried to get through a novel, it was a disaster. I’m trying to plot this one out so I can actually get it into a novel, not just a long short piece 🙂
I’m very impressed with your story structure. You’ve had that aha moment when a big piece of writing craft makes sense-hurray for you!
I’m a pantser who is morphing into a plotter as I write longer books, so
I’m finding that the instinctive approach of culling my subconscious for the story structure I’ve learned from all those hundreds of books read is not quite enough anymore. I’ll be back to learn how you break your plan down.
I am thrilled to say the rest of your 8 C’s series has certainly not let me down–I used your method to plot my WIP, and am very happy with the result.
I feel a sense of security, as if I’m exploring new territory, but with a GPS rather than a roadmap, meaning it can change according to new conditions. I can go where my characters wish, but keep them moving toward the goal.
that’s wonderful! I can’t wait to hear more about your work in progress! 🙂
Thank you for creating this! It is so helpful.
Happy to hear it, Amber! If you have any questions or are looking for information on a particular topic, let me know 🙂
Reblogged this on brooke d coleman.
I just started writing for the first time (in my life!) and your website has been amazing in helping me out flush out characters and creating a real environment. I started my writing by seeing if I can write a short story. I was wondering if you had something similar to this, but for shorter stories?
Hi Brian, and welcome!
Short fiction has much more freedom than novels, much like a short film can be very different from a feature-length one. Check out this post, which Pixar follows in their short films: https://larawillard.com/2012/09/21/simplest-story-structure/
I also recommend checking out Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction.
Best of luck! Don’t hesitate to come back with more questions.