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How to Successfully Write the Plot of Your Story in Reverse

By Sheila C Skillman

How can one write a good fiction story in reverse? This may seem a trick question until you realise this simple fact: a novel is defined by its outcome. Put it in another way; every story has a Controlling Idea; and this idea is embedded in the final climax of the story. You cannot know what you are really trying to say until you have your Controlling Idea. And the corollary of that is: you cannot find out what you are trying to say until you have written your story. So what do you do?

1. Do your thinking, your wondering, your research, perhaps even write a plan – just a way to trick the unconscious – then write the first draft without stopping to analyse or correct what you’ve written and without even being sure of exactly what you’re trying to say – though you may have some vague notion. Go on the journey, let all the ideas pour out, and as you do so start learning who your journey companions – your characters – are, and reach the point where you set them free to surprise you and to take twists and turns you had never expected. Pass that point and continue on through all the unexpected deviations and contingencies and revelations – until you reach the story climax and know you have finished.

2. Leave the draft to marinate for a period of time; at least a number of weeks. Then come back to it, print it out, read it through, and see it afresh. Consider the Controlling Idea embedded in the story climax. It may be something very different to what you originally thought you were trying to say. Be sure you have clearly identified this idea; it must not be ambivalent. It may be negative, or positive, or ironic. But you can be sure that if you have followed your own instincts, this Controlling Idea will be your world view. It will be true to yourself, and not to what you imagine the world around you wants to hear; not even to match what you perceive to be the beliefs of a commercial audience. The paradox is this: your story will never please anyone else if it is not true to what you really believe.

3.Then write your story in reverse. Take your Controlling Idea, write it on a Post It Note, stick it your laptop/computer and go through your draft again, rewriting, setting every twist, every turning point, every reversal, every climax of every Act, in the light of that Controlling Idea.
Robert McKee in his book “Story” cites some examples of Controlling Ideas in famous movies to help you understand this concept: “Goodness triumphs when we outwit evil” (The Witches of Eastwick); “The power of nature will have the final say over mankind’s futile efforts” (Elephant Man, The Birds, Scott of the Antarctic) or “Love fills our lives when we conquer intellectual illusions and follow our instincts” (Hannah And Her Sisters).

In conclusion, for a story-teller, one guiding principle stands out: “We have only one responsibility: to tell the truth.”
SC Skillman

S.C.Skillman is the author of “Mystical Circles”, a psychological thriller. You can buy the book on Amazon and through the Kindle Bookstore, or visit the author’s website to find out more, and click the secure payment gateway to buy a signed copy at

Article Source: [] How to Successfully Write the Plot of Your Story in Reverse


Image:© Ruediger Baun |

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