Plot. Structuring a plot is, according to a wide variety of people, a simple matter of following their particular methodology (and of course buying their book to find out about it). That’s always something that annoys me, even though stories probably do follow certain recognisable patterns. I’m not even a fan of being told that there must be a beginning, middle and end, because for me, that always feels like the bit in the middle is something separate from the other two bits, when it shouldn’t be.
So let’s try asking some other questions. First, what is plot? Plot is all the events of your novel. Everything that happens does something within your novel, and so you can’t ignore any of it. Nor can you just put things in at random, because for me (unless you’re deliberately doing something with a very weak sense of plot, which is possible) plot needs to have a single main strand and direction, around which everything else can gather. I also feel that if you want your plots to seem logical and natural, you have to ask yourself why an event is happening. The answer should never be ‘because it’s the way it has to happen if plot point x is going to happen’ or even ‘because my book on it said so’.
Look at me though, making exactly the usual kind of mistake. Here’s a thought for you. If, as these plot structure people claim, structures such as theirs are inherent in all stories, why do we need them to explain them in detail? We know stories. Usually hundreds of them. We know how they go. So next time, just try writing out your plot instead and ask yourself a much simpler question than ‘is my second act reversal in the right spot’. Ask yourself ‘does this look like a story?’ You’ll almost certainly know the answer.