How to Plot a Character Driven Book in 3 Easy Steps

05 Apr

I collect articles on writing.  The thought is this will somehow magically help me to break in and conquer the publishing world.  It’s like buying a diet book and expecting to pounds to melt away, just because you have the book in your possession.

I came across an article entitled Theme & Premise: Or How to Plot a Character Driven Book in 3 Easy Steps written by Robyn DeHart.  I had taken the time to put this in a sheet protector and placed it in a binder.  Those were signs I believed this was a keeper.

Step 1-Theme

Ms. DeHart said that this is a one-word concept, the basic emotional conflict of the book.






Ms. DeHart suggests looking at books you’ve written or books you’ve consider keepers.  There is a chance these books have the same theme.

The theme in my books is the bonds of family.

Once you have your theme it’s on to next step in the process.

Step 2-Premise/Character Lesson

This is what the character learns.


They are deserving of love.

Your past doesn’t have to dictate your future.


Step 3-Character Arc

Once you know your character lesson, you know what their arc should be.  The character arc is the plot of the story.  It is the foundation of your book.  You are going to have your characters face their past again and again until they grow and change or forsake their internal goal.

This is another weapon in your writing journey.  I suggest you visit Ms. DeHart’s web site to read her article.        


Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Idaho


18 responses to “How to Plot a Character Driven Book in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Janis McCurry

    April 5, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    My books are on transformation. Thanks for the resource.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 5, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      You know I like to create “order” in the middle of a big mess. Plotting is a BIG mess.

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    April 5, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    Lynn, a few months ago two writers from Writers In The Storm did a challenge: Character vs. Plot. I reposted the first part by Laura Drake.

    I am always drawn to the character, who leads me to the plot and the meat of a story. I loved your post and how it describes the process of developing the character driven plot and will treasure your link. Thanks for another thought provoking post 🙂

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 5, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      Ramblings, you know I love hearing from you. Thank you for the link.

  3. Liz Fredericks

    April 5, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    IMHO it’s difficult to tease out a theme or simple character arc. At least for me . . . I think the three-parter you outline is especially useful when a person is drafting the synopsis. It’s easy to get cluttered into subplots and description. Thanks for this, Lynn!

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 5, 2012 at 8:29 PM

      Hi Liz, creating order during the plotting process takes a great deal of work.

  4. Meredith Allen Conner

    April 5, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Great post Lynn! Every once in a while I’ll get lost in my plot and when I am trying to untangle all the lines it is the thought of my hero or heroine’s problems that helps me through the mess I’ve made. This is a good one to keep posted right front and center!

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 5, 2012 at 8:30 PM

      Hi Meredith, this one does appear to be straight forward. Do keep it front and center. Let me know how it goes.

  5. Mary Vine

    April 5, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I like, “Your past doesn’t have to dictate your future.” I used that premise in my last book (Wanting Moore). I think it’s there in a different respect in my current wip, too. Thanks Lynn for getting me thinking.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 5, 2012 at 8:32 PM

      Hey Mary, I lifted this from Ms. DeHart. Visit her web site.

  6. stephanieberget

    April 5, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Great information, Lynn. I’ll go to her website and read more. Mine is ‘You are deserving of love.’

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 5, 2012 at 8:33 PM

      Stephanie, I’m glad I could share.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    April 5, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    You know how I try to find “order” in the mess.

  8. Peggy Staggs

    April 6, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    My theme is always redemption. Interesting how that works out.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 9, 2012 at 9:59 PM

      Yes, we have themes that become the heart of our stories. While the stories may be different, the theme is still the same.

  9. marsharwest

    April 7, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Hey, Lynn, just getting to this one. Made myself finish “last” edits on the most recent book so I could make a hard copy for a friend who has read all of the other 4–even that ghastly first book. Didn’t look at any email. (Oddly, the world didn’t come to an end! LOL )
    Anyway, My themes is always second chances. I recently completed a class from Bootcamp for Novelists on Escalating Consequences. Linda Style, the teacher, started us with looking at the theme before moving into the issue of dramatic purpose or story question. In book 6, my question is: Does everyone deserve a second chance? Interestingly, through the weeks of the course, I realized I don’t believe everyone deserves a second chance, although that’s the theme of everyone of my books.
    All this is to say, writing is incredibly hard, the more I learn, the harder it seems to get. But, Lynn, I will check out Robyn’s web site and the one you suggest too, Florence, As an educator, I believe, you can never have too much knowledge. (I LOLed at your example about the diet book, Lynn. So true.) However…I sure wish I were a pantser and could just sit down in front of the computer and all these lovely words flowed out–even if you later went back to edit. LOL
    Sorry. I’m back to being long-winded again. Must work on that.

    • Lynn Mapp

      April 9, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      Marsha, I too wish I was a pantser. Writing is work. It requires thought, thought, and more THOUGHT. I’m trying to make sense of the art of creating a novel.

  10. Betsy Love Lds Author

    April 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    Great Article, Lynn!!! I finished writing a character driven novel and worry about the pacing. Thanks for the 3 easy steps. Now I can go back and check to make sure I have it “right.”


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