Remember the WHY in Complicated Plots

From the time I was in elementary school, all the way thru high school, my English teachers taught me the exact same way to plot a story.








Does that look familiar to you, too? I know it does. This handy diagram is seared into my brain for all time and eternity. The character needs to go over a hill of conflict to accomplish their goal. So simple it’s stupid.

My plot lines look more like they came out of a seismograph machine.


It’s like life, isn’t it? It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s dizzying at times. Sometimes it’s shear drudgery to get through the middle of a story when all of the problems have built up and you have to orchestrate a resolution for all of them.

If you’re writing a story with a complicated plot line (or living a complicated plot line yourself) how do you keep your character moving toward their end goal?

It’s simple. Remember the WHY.


Take, for example, my character in the middle of this story.
– She knows what she has to do. She has to break into the evil prince’s castle to steal a gold vase.
– She knows how she’s going to do it. She’s going to disguise herself as a chambermaid and outwit the not-so-bright prince.
I can write a gorgeous, perfect setting. I can throw in some exciting tension. I can even let the guard see through her super-clever disguise and let her barely escape with her life. But if I don’t include why she is stealing the vase, I guarantee my readers will end the chapter saying, “So what? Who cares?”

Without motivation the scene falls flat. The entire scene—the conflict, the vase—it has no meaning.

Now, if I remind the reader that one drop of the liquid contained in the vase would cure her little brother of paralysis, (which by the way is a condition that he suffers due to a spell from the evil prince’s magician) suddenly my character has purpose and the internal motivation to do difficult things. Now she’s willing to make herself uncomfortable and take risks.

Are we remembering the WHY in our stories? Are we remembering the WHY in our own lives? Do you have purpose and internal motivation to enact change?

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