Working Backwards to Make Your Plot

By Kristen
Updated November 24, 2007

I was taught by numerous English teachers and even accomplished professors in fiction writing courses that you start from the beginning. Sit down, think about what you want to write about, and just start with Once upon a time. Even the outlines start at the beginning. It's wrong! (Well, it's wrong for most of us.)

Don't start by thinking about what your characters are doing at the beginning of the story. Start with thinking about what your audience will be thinking at the end of your story, and work backwards.

The Process Isn't Linear

Even though this process is listed step-by-step, you won't actually complete one step before you proceed to the next. You'll probably find yourself jumping around. The process is simply a tool to help you get started.

Start at the End

  1. What is the Premise / Theme?
  2. What is the Concept?
  3. How do you want your concept to end? (It needs to fit with the premise.)
  4. What needs to happen to achieve that end? (Make a step-by-step plan.)
  5. What obstacles are getting in the way of that plan? (Be creative yet realistic, and don't forget to think about how your characters and their motivations influence these obstacles.)
  6. How does the character transform from the experience from beginning to end?