09 January 2012

Found My Plotting Tool

by Diane Carlisle

Last month I purchased Contour, a software tool to help me with plotting. I've been struggling with plot for the past year or two. Now that I have this tool, I'm using it to sort of structure a lot of the content I've been developing in my head for so long. Forget the scenes I've created, I can copy and paste them in later!

After combing through the manual, I discovered very quickly that my character will go through 4 phases of the hero’s journey, a character arc, and here are those phases. I will share more of my learning experiences as I grow in knowledge with this particular software package.

The Orphan

Basically, my character has to have flaws if my audience is going to root for them, so this has to be identified in the very beginning. I must use my protagonist to hook the reader.

Maybe she is fighting alcoholism, a broken heart, or a social stigma on top of discrimination. Are there deep rooted issues that will make my character struggle more in their upcoming journey? If there isn't, I must create some! Sounds good to me.

The Wanderer

This is the period of time where my character is discovering within themselves their purpose and objectives. The meat of my story is within this stage and the following stage. My character must be setup to discover things that are important to them and their mission. Within this stage I can also have sub plots.

Who's to say I can't go off in the weeds and sneak in some romance in my suspense/thriller? Okay! Exciting stuff for me.

The Warrior

My character will realize they must do things for themselves. Nobody can do what needs to be done except for my protagonist. This is where my audience will begin to root for her even more because they are now emotionally connected to her.

She displays courage in following through her objective and her climb is steep toward her arc. Soon, she will cycle over. At the end of this stage, she will struggle and her greatest stakes will present themselves and she may be doomed to failure.

The Martyr

My protagonist will come to a complete arc. She must perform a selfless act that will endanger her life in some way. This is usually an act that exposes her flaws and when she follows through with it she will be fully changed from within.


This is the character arc that I've needed to understand a bit more in my stories. I hope it will prove to be the answer to all my problems with finishing a novel.

I will definitely be posting more about the things I learn in this quest to understand plot. Stay tuned, and wish me luck!! :D

Do you have any advice on plot? What are your favorite elements of plot?

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