Plotting with Purpose: The Art of Narrative Planning

Evan Swensen
4 min readJun 14, 2024


Navigating the complexities of storytelling often leads one to daunting impasses. The journey starts with enthusiasm, only to find the plot thinning, much like autumn’s last leaves clinging desperately to their branches, hinting at the impending barrenness of winter. It’s a familiar scene for many writers, the initial burst of creativity giving way to a dreaded stall. The story, which once thrummed with life, now seems to draw to a close within mere chapters, or worse, leaves characters stranded in a narrative cul-de-sac.

Such moments of dismay are not uncommon. The writer finds themselves at a standstill, the plot unable to sustain itself, like an engine sputtering without fuel. This is where many stories falter, either wrapping up too soon or getting stuck in the middle, with characters wandering aimlessly without direction.

A Writer’s Dilemma

Imagine sitting down to write, the excitement palpable, the words flowing effortlessly at first. Yet, as the middle of the book approaches, the enthusiasm wanes. The plot that once seemed rich and full now feels thin and insubstantial. The characters, so vibrant in the beginning, now lack purpose. The narrative energy dissipates, leaving a sense of unease and frustration. The once-clear path of the story now seems obscured by a dense fog of uncertainty.

The Fix: Planning and Outlining

This is where careful planning can save countless hours of frustration. A structured approach, such as creating a detailed 30-page outline of your novel, can transform your writing process. You create a roadmap that guides you through the murky middle of your story by outlining each chapter, focusing on conflict, character development, and unexpected twists.

Think of an outline as a trellis in a garden. Just as a trellis supports the growth of climbing plants, an outline supports the growth of your narrative. It provides a framework upon which the vine of your story can flourish, ensuring that the plot remains robust and the characters’ journeys remain engaging.

Tending to Your Narrative Garden

To diligently tend to your narrative garden, begin with the end in mind. Visualize the climax of your story and work backward, identifying key milestones and conflicts that will lead your characters to that ultimate moment. Consider subplots that can enrich the main narrative, adding depth and complexity to your story. These subplots are like the branches of a tree, supporting the main trunk and creating a fuller, richer experience for the reader.

Additionally, focus on the sensory richness of the environment in which your story unfolds. Engage the reader’s senses with vivid descriptions that bring the setting to life. The authenticity of human interactions within this setting adds another layer of depth as characters respond to their environment and each other in real and relatable ways.

Balancing Description and Action

A rhythm that balances description with action and reflection with momentum keeps the reader engaged. Vivid imagery should not overwhelm the pace of the story but should complement it, enhancing the narrative without slowing it down. This balance invites the reader to engage deeply with the events and their implications, creating a more immersive and compelling reading experience.

Embracing Subtle Humor and Irony

Integrating subtle humor and irony can add another dimension to your storytelling. These elements can lighten the mood when necessary, providing a contrast to more intense moments and keeping the reader emotionally invested. Humor can reveal character traits and relationships in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening.


Remember, every great story deserves to be told in its full glory. Your vision can become a compelling reality with the right tools and guidance. By planning meticulously and tending to your narrative garden with care, you can confidently navigate the complexities of storytelling. The journey, though challenging, is also immensely rewarding, leading to the creation of a story that resonates deeply with readers.

In essence, the art of storytelling is much like cultivating a garden. With careful planning, attention to detail, and a balance of description and action, a writer can overcome the common pitfalls that lead to narrative stagnation. By embracing these techniques, any writer can turn their vision into a vivid, compelling reality.

𝐖𝐞 𝐃𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬; 𝐖𝐞 𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬
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Evan Swensen

Book publisher, editor, author, Author Masterminds charter member, founder of Readers and Writers Book Club, and bush pilot.