23 June 2013

The Plot Clock by Jamie Morris

This year's TWA conference and book festival was the most beneficial one I've attended. One of the things I'm sharing with you today is the condensed version of The Plot Clock, a system developed by Ms. Jamie Morris.

First, here's a small graphic I created to show how these plot points look in relationship to one another. Each student in the mini class drew this by hand, but you don't want to see my scanned, handwritten version. You really don't. It is sad, really sad.

Note: The inner gray circle is just a reminder that any subplots within your main plot must also follow this circular path of THE PLOT CLOCK.

Act I (The Ordinary World)

Story Start

The story begins at the top of the plot clock and starts the protagonist on the journey while in the ordinary world. The character is developed and living in a world which is comfortable, safe, and familiar. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is in Kansas, conflicted by her daily dealings with family and the evil Mrs. Gulch.

Inciting Incident

Something happens to the protagonist which calls upon them to act and leave behind the ordinary world. They may choose not to act right away; maybe they will question this step and not answer the call.

Either way, they are placed in a position to be aware of this dilemma. Dorothy locks herself in her room over the devastation of Mrs. Gulch taking Toto, a tornado whisks her away, leaving behind her family who had escaped into an underground shelter.

Binding Point

The protagonist is forced into leaving the ordinary world at which point they cannot return, at least not as the same person or via the same route. When Dorothy discovers she's in Oz, there's obviously no turning back. She must move forward to get back home.

Act II (The Special World)

The Special World

The special world will have a look and feel so different from the ordinary world. It should throw the protagonist out of her comfort zone. It's not safe and familiar, not like the ordinary world.

Many things will happen to your main character while in the special world (think of Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow, Tin man, and Cowardly Lion), but the most important things in Act II are exposing weaknesses.


Exposing weaknesses in your characters makes them more likable. Nobody wants to read about perfect characters. This is an opportunity to test your characters so that when they come back in Acts III and IV, the reader will know from where they came and cheer for them when the time comes.

Low Entry Point

This is when the main character enters the lowest point in the story. It's when they discover things are truly hopeless and life is over as they know it. When Dorothy is told by Oz that he cannot get her home, she is devastated and must return with the evil witch's broom.

In Top Gun, when Maverick's wing man is killed in a freak accident, it's like his whole world changed instantly. The internal change has begun for these characters.

Act III (The Special World continued)

Internal Change

The biggest struggle for the main character happens in this part of the story. They've been tested beyond anything they could ever have imagined. They are desperate. This happens to Maverick in the moment he is declared not responsible for his friend's death, but he still carries demons.

Low Exit Point

The character exits the low point. A story must create change in your character and this change is what gets your character climbing toward the turning point. Your main character will now have obstacles which expose their strengths.


Exposing strengths in your characters makes them worthy of success. You can't keep them wallowing in weaknesses. Here is where they've earned their right to be where they are. They're wiser, less fearful, and more heroic in the choices they make. It's what gets them to the Turning Point.

Act IV (The Special World continued)

Turning Point

There is hope for your protagonist! This might come in the form of an anti-climax or it may just continue on with obstacles. I've decided to use it a bit differently in Precinct 9. We'll see how that goes.

This is the part where Maverick has graduated from Top Gun. Things look to be turning for the better and he's come to grips with the death of his friend and the demons left behind of his father's legacy.

Final Battle

Your protagonist must fight the fight of all fights. This is the huge dogfight in the sky for Maverick. It's a big win for him, too. He finally stuck with his wing man and they pull off a successful air battle. Likewise, Dorothy escapes captivity with help from friends and melts the wicked witch.


Tie things together, explain things, show the happily ever after. In the romance novel, it's usually the man professing his love and explaining all the reasons why he'd been a complete oaf to her.

In Top Gun, it's when Maverick shows back up at the club where he'd met Charlie, the instructor. Someone plays the song he'd sung to her back then, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling". Dorothy is back in Kansas telling everyone about her dream and how they were all in it.

Do your stories follow The Plot Clock to some extent?

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