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X is a hard letter to find writing words for. Some writing friends came up with a few more, but this was the first idea I had for X and I like it.
So X Marks the Spot.
And that’s all about treasure and treasure hunts. And when you get down to it most, if not all stories, can be broken down in terms of a treasure hunt (kind of like all stories are a journey of some kind, physical or otherwise).
Treasure hunts have a few key pieces. There’s the treasure, the map, and the journey to get to the treasure. I’ll go over how each one is useful for conceptualizing your plot.
This is what your character is after, their main goal. In a romance, that would be finding the significant other and winning them over. In a mystery/thriller the treasure is catching or defeating the antagonist. In some books, there’s actual treasure to be had and that’s what the character is after.
The map is the key part of this whole thing. X marks the spot on the map after all. There are several things about the map in relation to your story.
Does your main character have the map? Or are they bumbling around blind? Do they think they have the map but it’s the wrong one? Is the X on their map pointing to what they think they want, but not what they actually want?
Does the antagonist have the map so they keep getting the jump on your protagonist? Can the reader see the map? Do they know what’s coming and where the next threat/conflict will emerge, or are they left guessing? There’s a lot of room to play here.
I already mentioned that every story can be boiled down to a journey. Some journeys are metaphysical, some are psychological, and some are physical. On the hunt for their treasure, your character will take some kind of journey, whether it’s as complicated as deep soul searching that points them to the meaning of their life and thus the treasure they want, or as simple as walking into the next room to meet the person they’ve always been meant to love.
The journey can be a straight line, a serpentine route, or have tons of hills and mountains to conquer. You have to craft the journey that matches your character with their treasure. Sometimes you have to create the journey that will enlighten them that the treasure they want isn’t the treasure they need.
During the course of the story, your character is going to take a journey to find a treasure, and by the end, they’ll be able to mark that X on the map to mark that important spot.
This is one way of looking at plot and the narrative of the story. What other strategies do you use to conceptualize your plot? Are there devices or charts you like to use?
In one of my recent works in progress freedom was the treasure my characters were after and most of their journey was metaphysical and psychological rather than physical, and they most certainly didn’t have the map. How about in your story? What’s the treasure, journey, and map like for your characters?
*Title Photo Is a Stock Image, Not my Work