Storyline versus Plotline

I often read or listen to people use the word plot and storyline interchangeably. Are they really describing the same thing? I checked the online Webster’s Dictionary, and it uses each term to describe the other. Interesting. But as I grow as a writer, I think there is a difference.

My first efforts at story writing started with the scenes in my head. I’d replay them over and over until I had a full movie. This method caused many apologies to the lady at the grocery store (Excuse me, I didn’t mean to run over your foot), the dog staring and I’m sure thinking, What? No walk this morning or tonight?, and the neighbor telling me about some escape convict on the loose in our neighborhood (Sorry, what did you say?). This story writing business is not for multitasking.

So that brings me back to plot and story. There’s an idea for an MG novel that has been swimming around my head for some time. It’s rather involved and despite attempts at making it work in my head, I wasn’t getting very far. There were too many elements to consider. I needed a list of events that would pull me from beginning to end.  Point A to point B etc. This to me is the storyline. A road map for the journey that lies ahead.

After putting those events on paper, I was satisfied with the rough outline, but there still was no plot. To move ahead I need to know how I will tell the story. That means defining characters and deciding on tense and narrative choices. Most important, how will the events in my story tie together for the reader? That to me is the heart of having a plot.

I’ll get there eventually with this one, although I may have to move away from the Halloween candy bowl. It’s already getting rather skimpy looking. I hope everyone has a happy Halloween!



About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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8 Responses to Storyline versus Plotline

  1. Step away from the candy bowl! You need to leave some for the kids. Thanks for an interesting post. I need to think about this one.

  2. Yes, I did step away. Expecting a big crowd tomorrow night with it being a Friday and no school the next day for the little monsters and ghouls.

  3. Annie McMahon says:

    I’m not sure there’s a difference between storyline and plot. To me, they’re the same thing. But there are so many other elements to consider in telling a story: voice, theme, tone, and how all the scenes connect together and make sense to the reader, like you said.

    I have to hide the Halloween candies until the trick-or-treaters start coming. Not from my kids, from my husband! And I buy them a day or two before Halloween, just to be sure.

  4. Jodi says:

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever stopped to think about it. I’m probably one of those who use the two terms interchangeably when I blog about writing topics. If pushed to find a difference between the two I’d say that plot is a more technical specification containing all the little tidbits where as the story is more of a general sweeping idea.

    • I agree. The storyline always comes to me first: a general description of the events that drive the story. The plot is the glue that ties it all together. Thanks for visiting and have a great November.

  5. H. Dumpty says:

    So when you use a word, it means just what you choose it to mean — neither more nor less. Right. That should work out fine for everyone.

  6. yep I always have the hardest time with the plot. stories tend to come pretty easy. It’s making it all into a neat little package that’s so hard! happy Halloween!

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