I’ve learned this method years ago and I’ve been using it ever since. The zigzag plot creator starts like this:
An crescent zigzag.
You can have as many up and downs as you want. I’ve drawn six to keep it simple. Alright, this zigzag is your storyline and every corner is an important event that will change everything:
Every down represents a bad thing happening to your main characters, taking them further away from their goal. Every up is a good event, taking them closer to their goal:
So, when the zigzag goes down, something bad must happen. When the zigzag goes up, something good must happen. The reason why we drew a crescent zigzag is because every down must be worse than the previous, and every up must be better than the previous. As the zigzag advances, events become more serious and relevant.
Let’s apply the zigzag method. My storyline is a detective trying to catch a serial killer in a futuristic city. Minutes later, this is what I’ve got:
Start: Detective, our protagonist, is just promoted
Down #1: Mass suicide happens in town, detective gets the case, the whole town thinks it might have been a religious suicide act, but detective suspects that someone single-handed killed all those people
Up #1: Detective finds clue about a possible killer
Down #2: A bigger mass murder happens, a true massacre, it’s a definitely a murder
Up #2: Detective finds the killer’s trail
Down #3: Thinking he is ahead of time, close to catching the killer, detective ends up dead in another mass murder
Up #3: Because of his notes and discoveries, the police is able to find the killer before they leave town
From this point on you can play with zigzag as much as you want. For example, changing the orientation of the zigzag for a bad ending:
Lots of ups and downs:
Or just a few:
It’s up to you (see what I did there?).
You can plot any type of story with the zigzag method. It’s a visual and easy process for a very complex task.
Creating plots with the zigzag method