The Plot Dot (a visual guide to writing unforgettable scenes)

Since I started writing fiction, I learned my design skills and art background make me really good at visualizing scenes. I even developed some mental tricks for creating powerful, resonant scenes that stick in people’s minds. I started thinking of each scene as one perfect picture, with a flash of color to draw the eye – an object representing the core conflict or principle of each scene and setting.

It’s an interesting enough writing technique, so I turned it into a short writing guide called “The Plot Dot.” It’s kind of a plotting journal, with lots of blank pages, so you can sketch out each of your scenes in a tried-and-tested plot outline that focuses on the major, unskippable scenes that should be included in most fiction.



I based my plotting outline on a classic 3 Act structure, based loosely on the hero’s journey. After several frustrating months trying to understand how a real story fits together, it’s slightly modified – this is the way writing fiction makes sense for me, and this simple outline has helped me finish and publish four books this year.


story architecture plotting 3 Act


Inside the workbook is a quick description of the major turning point scenes, as well as some basic world-building and character description. As long as you hit the major scenes well, you can just fill in the spaces between them however you need to (what do your characters need to do to progress to the next Big Event in your story?).

I’m pretty excited about this idea, because I think it will be a really useful exercise book that will make plotting and scene building much easier. It’s on on Amazon, but you can download the PDF for free.

>>Download The Plot Dot for free! <<


PS) I’d love feedback! Is this something you or someone you know might actually use? Is there anything I could do to improve it?


About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors build profitable publishing platforms. Find me
  • The Soul of Gary Collins

    Looks like a Hero’s Journey / Save the Cat hybrid. This works for many and I’ve devoted years to brow beating it into submission so it would work for me, but ultimately my writing method is incompatible with grafting a story onto a pre-fabricated skeletal structure.

    We’ve all been listening and seeing vast volumes of story since we were babies. All the relevant story structure is already within us. I find it’s best to to trust in that and proceed on a more instinctual level. Like Dean Wesley Smith’s ‘writing into darkness.’

    All talk of plot points and acts, and all that jargon from McKee, Syd Field, Snyder etc. just puts me back up into my ‘critical mind’ and writing from there just doesn’t feel natural. It actually sends a writer down the wrong path to a certain degree. And this is from a guy who bought into their paradigm for many years.

    But we each have learn the distinctions that work best for us. It’s a hard fought thing.

    My $0.02

    • Yup – it’s possible to pants it and write bestsellers. But it’s fair more common to pants it and never finish anything decent. If the method that makes you feel comfortable is working, stick with it. Plotting this way lets me write much faster.

    • Writing instinctually is so important. But editing with this type of stuff in mind is where story, structure, etc. comes in handy.

  • DRAW a scene? ROFL. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. I’m just not gifted that way. My tools are words, not pictures. I’m sure this would work for other people, just not my cup of tea.

  • Very cool idea! Thanks for putting this together.

  • jjabercrombie

    You’re either insane or insanely crafty to promulgate such nonsense. This is the kind of b.s. that is the bane of meaningful fiction as well as non-fiction of any worth. No wonder you’re getting your PhD in Lit in Taiwan, of all places; no U.S. university would ever stand for such vapid treacle. Owning a keyboard or dictation software does NOT make you a writer. Suggest you work on your MBA, because that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Money.

  • Sarah Riv

    I LOVE this idea. I just skimmed through it but I can see this helping me a lot. It’s so hard for me to see the details and my main critique is my lack of detail so this will help me stay on track. Plus this is a fun little way to learn some new things without it being drilled into me.

    • Thanks! Feedback has been mixed; some people like it, some hate it. I’m not sure how people can get so upset over a coloring book. 🙂

  • Teddi Deppner

    It’s a neat idea, but asking me to draw each character, each scene? Ugh. Doesn’t work for me. Even though I am an artist/illustrator as well as a writer, there’s no way I’m going to do that.

    I like the bones of it, and the concept of what you’re doing, but I think you need to provide some actual shapes for people to color. Sure, you can leave blanks for them to write in so they can answer your prompts, but there needs to be something to color for it to be a coloring book. Maybe find some shapes that suggest the things you’re discussing (arrows, paths, mazes, daggers for conflict, hearts for romance, etc).

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  • Teresa Crumpton

    What a fresh approach! Nice job. Since three acts has been around since Aristotle, it’s a welcome surprise to find a new and useful approach. I will definitely be using this with my authors.

  • Julian Greene

    I was directed to your site, and specifically to the Red Dot by an online writing support group. I could not have discovered this at a more propitious time for me. I’ve been struggling so with my first draft of my first novel. I had just decided to write the biggest scenes instead of drudging along and fading out, and this is a perfect solution for me.

  • christopherwills

    Your plotdot book looks really useful. Like you I use a simplified version of the Hero’s Journey as a basic outline and then pantster from there. I shall try your Plotdot book out on my nanowrimo for this year (2017). Thanks.

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