Your story is a roller coaster, make sure the readers make it to the end.
Funnily enough this post isn’t about how to plot or about bunnies. It is however, about the Plot ingredient which should always be in the Story Cauldron. I write character-driven stories because life is about people and books are about life, but this doesn’t mean I’m not big on plot. Even though the emphasis of a story might be on characters, that doesn’t mean that the amount of effort put into the plot should be any less than the effort put into characterisation.
– A plot should always move towards the climax and its subsequent resolution. That is to say, keep the goal in mind. You should also be able to summarise your plot in one sentence.
– There should also be a subplot, which you should also be able to summarise in one sentence. People who get stuck have usually lost sight of their plot and/or subplot. If that happens easily, it might be a good idea to make an outline before you start writing. That makes it easier for you to begin and stick to it once you’re halfway through that beast of a story.
– The one-sentence summary should contain the goal. Every plot should have a goal because that’s how you know what obstacles you’ll add into the Cauldron. Here it is also interesting to create tension by giving the character traits that already don’t match with the goal. Characters make interesting obstacles.
– There should be a set of mini-achievements for a character in order to reach the goal, they are usually reactions to the obstacles. This is especially clear in mystery, for instance. The goal is to solve a murder, they have a suspect, but then new information arrives and shows the suspect is not the killer. They have to use that new information to get closer to a new suspect and every time they uncover something, whether it sets them back or not, it all adds up to the eventual truth; everything leads to their goal. Cause and effect.
– It should always be clear in which direction you’re moving, but you should still throw a few curve-balls at your readers to keep them on their toes. Subtlety is key here. Hint by sliding it past them, not by throwing the hint in their face. Also feel free to lay out false clues, but only one or two or your readers might feel tricked, in a bad way.
Keep moving closer to the goal, even a setback for your character is still a motion. Move gradually, not like a bullet, but like a leaf in the wind. Never ever stop, because like a shark, your plot will die.
TIP: The elements of a good plot are pretty straightforward and you can discover them easily by thinking of what you expect of a novel with a good plot, as a reader. Thinking like a reader will help you when writing. (Note: don’t think like a reader WHILE writing, only before or after.)
It is nearly the end of the month, so you know what means…another writing project finished. Well, a first draft, but that means the hardest part is over. At least, I consider that the hard part. It’s easy for me to work with a sketch/blueprint of a story. I’ve never been a crazy reviser. Some writers make whole outlines and travel to distant lands to receive wise words from a sorcerer when they start revising…okay, maybe not that last one. In my case, with my finished story, I wrote along the way. At some point I changed the plot so I started over, using some of the pages that I could from the old version and just wrote. Along the way, I’d see if it made sense, but I knew where I wanted to go. The only rewriting that needed to be done after that was the phrasing of words, making sure it’s not too wordy and other syntax related changes. I suppose it’s good to know that I don’t write in such a way that I have to change scenes here and there and really cut it up and paste it again. Usually when I know the direction I want to go in, I can write it like I’d read it.
Having said that, now that I’ve finished another project, it’s time to revise the first one. The cosy mystery. TUM TUM TUM TUM. In this case, I feel like I really just wrote it to be quick and get the basic idea down, so I do feel like I will need to work hard to get the characterisation right and the plot, the atmosphere. The Writing Guidelines are different for cosy mysteries than for the other stories I’ve been writing so perhaps that is why I need to reread it with fresh eyes. I felt like something was missing. That is also why I ordered a cosy mystery and started reading it to get in the right mind set. I think what I’m missing has something to do with the characters. Cosy mysteries usually have a lot of minor characters, but I don’t like too many minor characters, I need to give them something special to set them apart and in this case, I didn’t feel the need for certain characters. Or scenes for that matter. But with cosy mysteries, cosy is very important. Characters need to be there to provide comic relief even though they don’t contribute (much) to the plot and the same with certain scenes. They need to add to the cosy vibe. So instead of asking myself: Does this character contribute to the plot? Or does this scene contribute to the story? I need to ask myself: Does this character make the story more cosy? Does this scene make it cosy? Which is why I’m soaking up the cosy vibe with other books.
This is also why they say writers should read. It really helps to take away what not to do and what to do from an already written story in your genre. So get your read on…and then your write on!
In the meantime here is the final sentence of the story about the girl with multiple personalities:
After all, most of the time, the only person who can lighten up a dark room, is you.