Plot Arc by Johanna Harness

11 Apr

I recently had the great pleasure of speaking to the Coeur du Bois Chapter of Romance Writers of America.  I couldn’t ask for a warmer audience.  They were wonderful!  My topic:  using timed writing to make use of small bits of time throughout your day.  I held up my own writing notes as examples and took a leap of faith when someone asked if I would pass them around.  It’s not so much that I have any great secrets in them.  It’s just that they contained my very raw, very undeveloped ideas—my working thoughts.  They were not in any way polished.  I was even more confused when a few people started taking notes.  And then a few more did.

I didn’t know what to make of it. These were my boring, day-to-day, throw-my-thoughts-together notes.

Then someone explained:  they were copying down my plot arc.  And they would love to have a copy of it if I would put it up somewhere, perhaps on a blog.  Maybe one for Idaho writers.  Gem State Writers, perhaps.

Okay, so here it is:  my oddball, everyday, yes-I-really-work-with-this Plot Arc—the one that captured their attention.

This arc is heavily influenced by Blake Snyder’s beat sheet as well as Michael Hauge’s 6-stage plot, but it’s also neither of those.  It’s a weird conglomeration of what works for me.  If my arc somehow works its way into your own weird conglomeration of what works for you, this would make me very happy.


Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Idaho


28 responses to “Plot Arc by Johanna Harness

  1. Janis McCurry

    April 11, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    Johanna, you did a great job and you’re a natural teacher. Engaging, funny, but most of all, gifted with the ability to reach your students. Thanks again.

    • johannaharness

      April 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      Thank you so much, Janis. This warms my heart.

  2. Peggy Staggs

    April 11, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Johanna, I’m sorry I missed your presentation. Janis, is right you are a natural teacher. I love your plot arc.

  3. marsharwest

    April 11, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Johanna, I liked your Plot Arc diagram. I confess to never having used anything like this, despite taking several classes and participating in workshops on the subject. Could be the reason I’m not pubbed yet. LOL I’m about 1/3 of the way through the 6th book, and think I’ll see if I can fit what I have into the beginning of your arc and use it for the other 2/3s. Thanks for sharing.

    • johannaharness

      April 17, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      I suspect that some people are able to hold an entire plot in their minds without assistance. lol. I’ve never been able to do that.

  4. Terri Farley

    April 11, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Love this & of course people were copying this diagram! It’s the yellow brick road through a book!

    • johannaharness

      April 17, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      Thank you so much, Terri! What a wonderful treat to see your name here.

  5. Meredith Allen Conner

    April 11, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Great plan and arc Johanna. Thanks for sharing!

  6. stephanieberget

    April 11, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    And you should have seen all the other shiny stuff she brought to show us. Thanks, Johanna. I love the Plot Arc.

    • johannaharness

      April 18, 2012 at 3:42 PM

      Thanks so much for inviting me, Steph! I had a great time. 🙂

  7. JC Rosen

    April 11, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Johanna, this is remarkable. I knew of the two resources, but to see how you put them together with such simple notes is beyond helpful. Thank you for sharing this. I am already able to see certain revisions in the next novel undergoing reconstruction.

    Take care,

    • johannaharness

      April 24, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      Thanks so much, Jess. I can’t wait to see your revisions. 🙂

  8. Mary Vine

    April 11, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    I had to leave the meeting a little bit early and missed the opportunity to tell you that I particulary liked when you talked about how hard it is to write comedy when you don’t feel like laughing (something to that effect). The answer for you was to not get inside your head when you’re writing, but your characters head. What great advice that is. Thanks so much!

    • johannaharness

      April 24, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      Thank you, Mary! That was the most difficult lesson for me to learn. I’m so glad that resonated with you.

  9. Liz Fredericks

    April 11, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    This is excellent, Johanna! I’m so sorry I missed the CBC meeting as I bet this doesn’t capture even a tenth of your insights. Thanks for this –

  10. robinconnelly

    April 11, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    I was at the meeting. It was great meeting you. I was wondering…could you re-list some of the writing supplies and how you use them at some time? You had some good ideas that may help me with some of my own struggles.

    • johannaharness

      April 24, 2012 at 9:47 PM

      Great idea for a future post, Robin! I may do just that. 🙂

  11. charmaineclancy

    April 11, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    That’s awesome, thanks for sharing!
    Wagging Tales

  12. Lily Mulholland

    April 11, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    I’ve read it any number of times, but not seen it depicted before. Good job!

    • johannaharness

      April 24, 2012 at 9:48 PM

      Thanks for telling me, Lily! Now I’m doubly glad I posted it. 🙂

  13. John Ross Barnes

    April 11, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    I can certainly see why people would want to copy your illustration. It’s a concise example of a perfectly good plot arc, one that can easily be adapted to a whole bunch(infinite?) of other plots, other stories.

    Thanks for this, Johanna

    • johannaharness

      April 24, 2012 at 9:48 PM

      Thanks, John! I love seeing your comments here. 🙂

  14. Clarissa Southwick

    April 16, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    So sorry that I missed this presentation. You’ve given us lots of usual information. I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this post time and time again.

    • johannaharness

      April 24, 2012 at 9:48 PM

      I missed you too, Clarissa. Hopefully we’ll meet again soon. 🙂


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