May 14, 2012

Using Episodic Plots

One of the writers workshops I'm taking is Toolkit for Writers from QWC. We will cover different devices writers can use to... write (it's starting to sink in that's the key to getting stuff written). This week our homework was to look at Episodic Plot Structure and create our own episodic plot based on our own lives over the past year.

Most of us think about story structure as a rising conflict to a point where it seems hopeless for our protagonist (come to think of it, now it seems like the story line should fall rather than rise, as the character struggles more and more...). Here's how that would look:
Picture found at 37Stars
But then there's also the old Hero's Journey, which is more circular. You can read more about this quest-style plot in:

So what's episodic? Simply put, it's a story told in episodes, very much the way television shows are presented. Each episode will somehow link to the others, but it might be a completely unrelated series of events. Episodes can be tied together by characters, setting or theme. Think of movies like Crash, each character is involved in a scene that revolves around the theme of racism, and each character links us to another character. This ties the movie scenes together into one story. The plot line can increasingly climb to an overarching conflict, but often it will look like this:
Picture found at Children's Literature
I struggled with this homework - I'm someone that invests a lot of time and energy into AVOIDING conflict, so I couldn't see how to present my past year as episodic. I also don't tend to read or write memoir, so I haven't honed those skills. But then I realised, there is conflict in writing, everyday (although procrastination doesn't work too well in fiction unless you're a master and make 'not doing stuff' dramatic, like in Hamlet). Here is my result, overall I think I'm a rising conflict or quest circle plotter, but hey, you have to try stuff:

Dog Show Detective novel finished! - Oh, needs edits.
Dog Show Detective novel finished! - Oh, needs edits.
Dog Show Detective… bugger it, start new project.
My Zombie Dog begins! Will finish in no time! Distracted by new plot idea.
Will write new plot idea for NaNoWriMo! 50,000 words in 1 month? Easy, I’ve done it 3yrs running… failed NaNoWriMo.
My Zombie Dog is finished! Beta readers suggest changes.
Now My Zombie Dog is finished! Oh, needs more edits.
My Zombie Dog, definitely finished! No, more edits.
My Zombie Dog perfectly formatted into an ebook! No, ebook needs more formatting, take it down and replace it.
Moved from Country Yass to Brisbane suburbs. Gave up work to focus on writing.
Joined the Queensland Writers Centre - signed up for just about every course they offer! Might need to work to pay for writing.
My Zombie Dog makes it to No. 2 in Children’s Horror on Amazon! My Zombie Dog quickly returns to its space at well over No. 100,000 in all books.
My Zombie Dog ready to become paperback! Changes needed to publisher’s digital proofs for paperback.
My Zombie Dog ready to become paperback! Changes needed to publisher’s digital proofs for paperback.
My Zombie Dog arrives at my house in paperback! Changes needed to physical proof copy of paperback. 
And so it goes…
Feel like having a go at this? Make sure you come back and share your link if you do, I'd love to see what you get!


  1. Hi Charmaine! I've struggled with this Episodic Plot idea. Given it a lot of thought but got nothing on paper - too busy writing my one story instead of three for the prompt we were given.

    See you Wednesday!


  2. Sounds like you are doing some awesome workshops designed to challenge.

    Guess what? You've been RAOKBlitzed! Come find out about it on my blog ;)

  3. yeah I had trouble with it too.

  4. Mine looks a little dull. I kinda grouped my episodes into subjects/themes so not chronological. Doubt I would really ever write it. Had more fun with the three mini stories and plotting a hero's journey. Am reading a really delightful memoir of sorts currently "There's Rosemary, there's Rue" by Lady Fortescue.

  5. Sounds intriguing! I've never tried it - I'll have to give it a shot one day :) And congrats on being blitzed :)

  6. Here's to learning and to success. Sounds like you're definitely on the right track! Congratulations on making those decisions and moving ahead.

  7. Hi Charmaine! Sounds interesting.

  8. Hi Charmaine, this Episodic Plots idea sounds interesting. Thanks for the share.

  9. Great diagrams! I agree that arching plot line adds drama. There's nothing worse than a really slow plot line.

    New follower here!

  10. Great charts. I still believe that at the end of every chapter you should feel either relief or anxious to get to the next page.

    I stopped in at your blog because you were RAOK Blitzed on Lynda's blog. :) Congratulations!

  11. Oh, the endless rising plot that is edits. *sigh*

    Sounds like you had a great year though! Good luck to you. (Also, I stopped by to congratulated you on being RAOK blitzed today!)

  12. I try to follow patterns of construction when I come across new ones. However, I am useless, and always fall back to my pantsing ways!

    I like you meditation poster in another post, and the art of not getting stuff done. I am good at that! :)

  13. I hadn't thought about it this way, but this could turn out some cool things. Thanks!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  14. Hi, Charmaine!

    I'm visiting your blog for the first time! Nice to meet you and , I'll have to come back to become more aquainted with your blog.

    Just left, Lynda's blog and im stopping over also to say congratulations on receiving the RAOK blitz!

    The eposodic diagrams look like a plan. I say if it works for you go for it! I like the thought of creating an eposodic creation. Perhaps I will some day.

    Great information to have. Thank you for sharing it!

    I am now following you!

    Hope you will stop by my blog!

  15. The episodic plans looks real interesting. Of course the story mountain is something we've all seen are and used to, so I'll need time to think about the other plan. I've seen Crash and like how it was set up.

  16. More than any other aspect of novel writing, I have struggled with plot. The Story Mountain I'm familiar with, naturally. A pity beyond all telling were I not to have at least *that* down(ish.)

    The episodic plotting seems like, 'Advanced Plotting for Authors who are not Total Plot Morons.'

    So that kinda leaves me out, for now. :D Workin' hard to catch up, though.