Plot n.1. A small piece of ground, generally used for burying dead people, including writers.2. A plan, as for designing a building or novel.
L is for Lead.Imagine for a guy on a New York City street corner with a ‘Will Work for Food’ sign. Interesting? Not very.But what if the guy was dressed in a tuxedo, and his sign said ‘Will Tap dance for Food?’ Hmm, a little more interesting.The point here is that a strong plot starts with an interesting Lead character. In the best plots, that Lead is compelling, someone we have to watch throughout the course of the novel.
O is for Objective.Back to our Will Work for Food guy. What if he tossed down his sign, put a parachute on his back, and started climbing the Empire State Building?Interest zooms. Why?This character has an objective. A want. A desire.
C is for Confrontation.Now our human fly is halfway up the Empire State Building. We already know he’s interesting because he has an objective, and with a little imagination, you can think up a reason why this is crucial to his well-being.Is there anything we can do to ratchet up the engrossment level? Yes! New York City cops are trying to stop him. They have plans to nab him around floor 65. Worse yet, a mad sniper across Fifth Avenue has him in his sights. Suddenly, things are a lot more interesting.The reason is confrontation. Opposition from characters and outside forces brings your story fully to live.
K is for Knockout.A great ending can leave the reader satisfied, even if the rest of the book is somewhat weak (assuming that the reader decides to stick around until the end). But a weak ending will leave the reader with a feeling of disappointment, even if the book up to that point is strong.So take your Lead through the journey toward her objective, and send the opposition to the mat.
The author of Plot & Structure gives twenty fast, simple, and fun ways to develop your own unique plot ideas. Here are 3 of them.
1. The What-If Game.The What-If game can be played at any stage of the writing process, but it is especially useful for finding ideas. Train your mind to think in terms of what-if, and it will perform marvellous tricks for you.
2. Titles.Make up a cool title, and then write a book to go with it.Sound wacky? It isn’t. A title can set your imagination zooming, looking for a story.
3. The list.Early in his career, Ray Bradbury made a list of nouns that flew out of his subconscious. These became fodder for his stories. Start your own list.
Jack M. Bickham counseled in The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes ‘Don’t warm up your engines. Start up your story from the first sentence.’ He warns of three beginning motifs that can stall your story of the first page.
1. Excessive description. If description is what dominates the opening, there is no action, no character in motion.
2. Backward looks. Fiction is forward moving.
3. No threat. Good fiction starts with someone’s response to threat.
How do you know what obstacles to throw?
The first step is to conceive an opposition character. I use this term rather than ‘villain’ because the opposition does not have to be evil. The opposition merely has to have a compelling reason to stop the Lead.
Three keys will help you come up with good opposition:
- Make the opposition a person.
- If it’s a group, select one person in that group to take the lead role for the opposition.
- Make the opposition stronger than the Lead.
We all have a core self
Plot & Structure tells that most of the time we’re not really thinking about who we are. Yet the core is there.
It is the product of many things over the years—our emotional makeup, our upbringing, our traumas and experiences, and so on.And we will do what we can to protect this core because, by and large, people resist to change. So we surround that core with layers that are in harmony with our essential self. Working from the core outward, these layers include: 1. Beliefs; 2. Values; 3. Dominant attitudes; and 4. Opinions.If you think about it, these layers get ‘softer’ as they move away from the core. Thus the outer layers are easiest to change. It is much easier to change your opinion, for example, that one your deeply held beliefs.But there is always a ripple effect when a layer experiences change. If you change an opinion, it will filter through the other layers. Initially, there may not be much effect. But change enough opinions, and you start to change attitudes, values, and even beliefs.