Plot Structure v. Plot Points – What’s the difference?
The plot is the crux of your story – what it’s about, what it will involve and the characters it will affect over any given period of time. It’s the sequence of events that tells the story. Plot structure and plot points are different, however; they do different things.
The way the story connects together and is laid out, the way it moves from point A to point B and so on, is plot structure. It’s a basic framework for how the characters, chapters, key scenes, themes, conflict and subplots will work. It also encapsulates the beginning, the middle and the end of the story.
The structure is down to the writer how they construct it – what they want included, what they don’t and how they want it. There is no right or wrong way to structure plots (some keep it simple, others use complex diagrams and charts or mapping), as longs as the story that forms from it is logical.
All plots follow the same pattern – an exciting beginning, escalating action, drama and conflict, a few twists and turns, the climax and finally the resolution/denouement.
This framework acts as a guide to help when writing the story, which means it’s not set in stone. It can change at any time, because that’s the nature of writing. But the structure allows writers to follow a path from beginning to end. Without that framework in place, there isn’t much chance of writing a cohesive story. That’s why we have plot structure.
Plot points are sometimes referred to as turning points, or twists. They are important or defining moments within the story that impact its direction and move it forward to the next plot point. Think of them as short stepping stones from one point to another within the story, and that every plot point is part of the entire plot structure.
Plot points don’t just push the story forward. Sometimes they can move it in other, sometimes unexpected directions, all while escalating the tension and drama. Not only that, but they can also have a deep impact on the main characters, so these points often help develop the characters as each point happens.
Without plot points, stories can meander or they might stall. A story without plot points has nowhere to go. That’s why we need them.
Plot structure and plot points have different functions - the plot structure is the framework that contains your story. Plot points are the significant moments within that story that happen from the beginning to move the story forward.
You need both, and you won’t be able to write without them.