STORY VS. PLOT: WHAT IS WHICH?by Sherrie Clark
We’ve all heard the words story and plot when it comes to books, but these two terms frequently get confused and are used interchangeably. Actually, they each have a different meaning and a different purpose. As a writer, knowing the difference would behoove you and your readers.
Story is the idea. It’s the emotional while the plot is the physical. In other words, the story tells the what, and the plot tells how the what happens and how the what is done. Confused? Okay, let me try to explain it in another way.
The plot tells and drives the story. It shows how the story unfolds. The plot is the sequence of events. But don’t discount the story because without it, the plot would be boring…just a series of jumping off the cliffs, racing the cars, and buying the engagement rings. As readers, we won’t know the story of why the character jumped off the cliff, raced the car, or bought the engagement ring. Readers will find difficulty bonding with the characters and thus the book itself because basically, we don’t bond with action; we bond with characters. Therefore, the story will help readers get more engaged in the plot.
Usually the plot is written around the story. For instance, let’s say we decide to write a romance novel about a female doctor falling in love and marrying a musician in a rock and roll band. That’s the story. Now we need to come up with HOW all of this is going to happen. That’s the plot. Of course, the same story can have different plots, but make sure each one of your plots moves your story forward. If it doesn’t, then you should probably consider making what can sometimes be the difficult decision of deleting that plot or at the very least, changing it.
So recognize which is what, and write your book accordingly. Take time to give your readers captivating plots, but don’t forget your story. They work hand in hand to accomplish your ultimate goal—writing that page turner of a book!