Click here to read fiction by Susan L. Williams. Click here to learn more about Spider Web Press. Click here to go to The Teddy Lady. Click here for lessons from Holy Mother Grammatica.


Many writers of fan fiction labor under the mistaken belief that their stories do not require a plot. Holy Mother Grammatica (hereafter known as HMG) would like these writers to know that, without a plot, what they have is a fragment, or perhaps a scene in search of a story. These scenes can be well-written, even beautifully so, but they are not stories. A story has a beginning, middle, and end. A story has direction; it is going somewhere and the reader is along for the ride. The parts can be broken down as follows:


This is where at least one main character is introduced, along with the setting. It is usually a good idea to describe both characters and setting, so that the readers know who and where these people are and can picture them in their own minds. Writing about characters established on a television show or in other stories does not mean that the author should skip descriptions. There is always the chance that someone who has never seen the show before will read the story. Besides, HMG is very fond of descriptions of delicious young anthropologists and handsome, muscular sentinels.

The beginning is also where the plot should be introduced, preferably as soon as possible. The shorter the story, the earlier the plot needs to begin. Try to draw the readers in by starting with something that grabs them and makes them keep reading. Which of these examples would make you want to keep reading?

Blair lay in bed, remembering what had happened that day, how Psycho J. Killer had held the gun to his head and threatened to kill him in front of Jim.

Psycho J. Killer jammed the gun into Blair's temple, gripping his arm so hard that Blair's fingers went numb. "I'll kill him, Ellison!"


This is where most of the stuff happens. This is where the characters are developed along with the plot, where we get the details, the conversations, the relationships, and the clues. In a longer story, this is where you can slow down and show the readers what you want them to see at a pace that you set. This is where you build up the readers' expectations, make them wonder and guess, keep them in suspense. This leads to...


The climax should be the most exciting part of the story. This is the payoff, the hold your breath or break your heart. In the climax, Jim catches the murderer or rescues Blair from Psycho J. Killer at the last possible moment, or Blair finally has that emotional breakthrough you've been building up to all along. It can be a quiet breakthrough, but the readers have to know that this is what they've been waiting for.

It is almost always a bad idea to have the climax happen off-stage. If you go to all the trouble of setting up a murder investigation, showing the readers the victim(s), following Jim and Blair as they question the suspects and search for clues, then toss an offhand, "Oh, by the way, Chief, while you were in the hospital, the murderer confessed: the butler did it," your readers will not be happy or satisfied. They may form a lynch mob, and HMG will cheerfully be a part of it.


The end is where everything winds down, where loose ends are wrapped up, hugs are given and received, and bad jokes are made. This is where you tell the readers what happened after all the excitement was over. If you feel like it. It is quite possible to simply end the story directly after the climax and never tell the readers another thing. The end can be as abrupt or as long as you wish, but it is advisable to avoid boring the readers with too much information or confusing them with too little. Though not always possible, coming up with a final sentence that's just as good as the opening sentence is a Really Neat Thing.

In the case of stories posted on the Internet, HMG has found it necessary to write the words "The End" after the last sentence of the story. This avoids what seems to be inevitable confusion and is therefore reluctantly recommended.



Show Don't Tell


Point of View

Tense Persons


Names, Pronouns, Descriptive Phrases



Plurals, Numbers, and Apostrophes


Common Errors


Favorite Bloopers

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