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
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.