Blockbuster Plots — A Guest Post by Martha Alderson

adlerson book cover

Storyfix is proud to welcome Martha Alderson, a big-time plotting guru and legendary workshop facilitator.  Her book, Blockbuster Plots, is a must-read, and I’m happy to say, echos my own development model.  It’s amazing how so many of us are saying the same things but in different and empowering ways — you can never get enough solid mentoring on the fundmentals of storytelling.

Plotting Tips

by Martha Alderson

Most people consider plot as what happens in the story. But I take the definition two steps further. Plot is what happens to the character because of the dramatic action and what that means overall.

In other words, when the dramatic action changes the character at depth over time, the story becomes thematically significance. These three threads: Dramatic Action, Character Emotional Development and Thematic Significance, hold the core dynamic of plot.

Writers who are great at developing both the Character Emotional Development plotline and the Dramatic Action plotline are the lucky ones, because most writers are strong in one area or the other.

By filling in the Character Emotional Plot Profile, writers are able to quickly determine their strengths and weaknesses based on which areas they fill out in-depth and which ones are left sketchier.

Take the test for yourself.

Record your main character’s emotional developmental level on the Character Emotional Plot Profile below. Base your information on the emotional developmental level as the story begins – baseline data, if you will. (I also recommend that memoirists fill out the Character Emotional Development Profile indicating where you were it the beginning of your memoir and then again for where you were at the end of the memoir. This will give you a better understanding of what emotional elements you may want to track and plot throughout the duration of the memoir.)

The protagonist’s emotional development will deepen and expand in the middle of the project based on their reactions to the dramatic action. At the end of the story, the character’s emotional development will undergo actual changes as they struggle to emerge transformed at depth.

Also, the main character’s story goal may very likely change at the end of the beginning of the project, depending on what event catapults him or her into the heart of the story world (the middle portion of the project). But for our purposes here, just fill in the information as the character is at the beginning of the story.

Character Emotional Plot Profile

1) Protagonist’s overall story goal:

2) What stands in his/her way of achieving this goal:

3) What does he/she stand to lose, if not successful:

4) Flaw or greatest fault:

5) Greatest strength:

6) Hates:

7) Loves:

8) Fear:

9) Secret:

10) Dream

If you filled out 1-3 with ease, you likely are better at developing the Dramatic Action Plotline. If you filled in 4- 10 with ease, you likely are better at developing a Character Emotional Development plotline. If both the Dramatic Action and the Character Emotional Development plotlines come easy for you, again you are one of the lucky ones!

Without a firm understanding of points 1-3, you have no front story. The Dramatic Action plotline is what gets the reader turning the pages, without it there is no excitement on the page.

Without a firm understanding of points 4-10, you will be more likely to lose the readers interest, because readers read 70% for character.

Martha Alderson, M.A., is an international plot consultant to novelists, memoirists, and screenwriters, and the founder of the International Plot Writing Month, which is going on right now. Not too late to join in as we take a rough draft of your project and craft it into a satisfying story for readers and audiences.

Martha is the author of Blockbuster Plots – Pure & Simple and teaches plot workshops privately, at Learning Annex, and at writers’ conferences. She offers plot consultations to writers anywhere in the world. Writers receive a personalized Plot Planner for their individual project.

For more tips on scene and plot, please visit her website:



To sign up for the free monthly eZine, Blockbuster Plots, full of plot tips, contests, resources and inspiration, go to:

Alderson photo


Filed under Guest Bloggers

3 Responses to Blockbuster Plots — A Guest Post by Martha Alderson

  1. I could as easily apply these to myself. Actually, it might be harder to apply them to myself! Which is probably a pretty good reason to do it.

  2. I’ve read a lot of lists of questions to ask your characters but this one is the most concise so far. I like how you boiled it down to the bare bone basics. Thank you! Off to fill in the questions. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much, Larry, for this opportunity, your kind words, and the work you do with writers everywhere!

    It’s nice to meet a kindred spirit in the realm of plot and structure, and one as generous as you.

    What a joy to know writers I might not have ever reached otherwise are able to mull over some of the ideas above and will hopefully benefit!

    Deepest gratitude,
    Martha Alderson
    founder of Blockbuster Plots for Writers and 2nd Annual International Plot Writing Month.