Writing a Plot is Like a Three Minute Egg

How to write plot

Hard boiled, or soft boiled? The plot depends on it.

Every element necessary to a successful plot lies in the same technique used in the making of a perfect three minute egg.  The same care taken to prepare this culinary challenge should be what any writer applies to the preparation of a plot.  We have to get your hero in hot water.

The Set-up: create empathy / give back-story and hook the reader

Do I like this egg-hero?  Does he make me laugh, has an undeserved tragedy befallen him, is he in jeopardy, is he powerful? You want your reader to be empathetic towards him, so much so that the reader will follow that egg into the pan.

What kind of crate does the egg come from? Filling in the back-story tells the reader the important facts about the egg. Is he the last egg or the first to leave the crate?  Is he Organic, cage-free, Omega 3, brown, white, or just a regular good egg?

What kind of problem pushes him out of his normal life and into totally new surroundings?  A hook right from the start makes the reader want to know what happens next to your little egg. The stakes have to be high or that little egg will stay put in whatever crate he comes from.

No matter what kind of egg he is now, he’s off on a journey and when he returns he will not be the same egg.

The Confrontation: create conflict / create more conflict

No conflict, no story

No conflict, no story

As a writer you have to heat things up. The egg needs to get to a simmer. That’s your rising action. Your egg-hero may start out in a non-threatening environment but he can’t stay there for long.  He doesn’t suspect things will be heating up. Throw obstacles at him and create conflict. Your readers will feel it coming and that’s the tension that keeps them reading.  Let’s see some rolling around in that pan. Plenty of action is what you need and it will happen when you turn up the heat. Higher stakes mean more conflict. Your little egg will be twirling in the water and you are well into the second act.

No conflict, no story.

The Climax: crisis / battle

You are boiling the water. This is the count down to the biggest crisis of your egg’s life. There is no turning back for our egg-hero. Your readers are now holding their breath. Time is the antagonist and he’s going for hard-boiled. NO! Will the egg win the battle and be saved at the precise moment? Will he become the PERFECT three minute egg? Of course. Because you, the writer are watching the timer.

Pacing is the rhythm and the speed of the plot. Don’t let the reader nap waiting for something to happen.

The Resolution: wind-down / aftermath

At just the right moment, you pluck the egg-hero out of the pan and place him safely in a cup. The journey winds down and all the sub-plots come together and are resolved. This is the aftermath of all the promises you made to the reader in the beginning. The egg fulfills his destiny in one way or another and transforms into something very different. Tap tap tap and off with his crown; the king is dead, long live the king.*

*I know it’s a three minute egg but this is about writing.

Writing a Plot is Like a Three Minute Egg

Egg-heros in search of a plot

Time for breakfast and your three minute plot: Using this template, insert one or two sentences for each part of the plot.  Any genre will do. I’ve started writing a lot of stories with this simple plot outline. Give it a try. I’d love to see what you write.

Set up:   Describe the main character, what is the back-story, describe the problem and the stakes

Confrontation:  What are the obstacles the main character faces at the onset and how are they intensified

Climax:  What happens when the main character faces his nemesis or greatest fear

Resolution:   How does the main character transform


  1. A brilliant analogy :-) We’re cooking!

  2. writersblock says:

    so much useful info… i always get stuck at that point, then can’t continue. thanks for the push to find my perfect egg!

  3. Looks like I need to get cookin’ too. Let’s see, pot, water, eggs – pen, paper, write. Yep, ready to go.

  4. Excellent article. Interesting and to the point. It’s funny how the best advice for writing is usually so simple as well.

    • Christina Ranallo says:

      The image of that little egg reminds me all the time to get my main character in trouble quickly as much as I want to let him play around in those early chapters. It make me hungry when I think about boiling eggs and I hate to stop writing. Conflict. Works for me!

  5. R. Kent Seckinger says:

    I love this, “Higher stakes mean more conflict.” Showing whats at stake for a character seems to be a natural way to to integrate back-story, empathy, etc., and like you, say…[the egg] is in boiling water, and showing how the water begins to heat, then moves to a slow boil, then to a rapid, rolling boil incorporates so much into the heat up and cool down of a story. Great analogy! Thanks!

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