Plot is what turns a list of events into a story. It’s the connection between different events that show cause and effect. Make sure that events in your story happen for a reason, and that they affect the characters.
Exercise: pick a word at random. Give yourself two minutes to think of as many different possible stories related to that word as possible – the more creatively you use the word the better.
‘Lost’, for example, might be a story about getting lost in a wood, or losing a game, or a story set in a lost property office. Or maybe someone has lost something which is very important to them – but the reader doesn’t understand why it’s so important until the very end of the story. The plot is why it’s important, how it got lost, and why it’s needed now.
The order in which you tell the story is important. It might seem natural to tell a story from beginning to end but mixing up the chronology or timeline of a story is a good way to make it more interesting. It still needs to make sense, but it doesn’t have to be in order.
Some different possibilities are telling the story in flashback, starting from the most dramatic point and then explaining how everyone got there. Or you might want to start at the end and work your way back to the beginning. Starting in the middle of the action is a good way to capture the interest of the reader.
In the exam, make a quick bullet point plan of the plot and then write numbers next to the bullet points to remind yourself what order you’re going to write them in.
Because creative writing assessments are quite short, it’s best not to get too complicated with plot or ordering – one twist is enough, or one change to the chronology.