How to Construct a Killer Plot

A novel without a plot…well, it’s not a novel. It’s not really much of anything, more like a mess. Your characters, your setting, all of it is created around and dependent on your plot to give it any real meaning. Your plot drives character development and relationships, forms the very basis of your writing. Your characters may be rich, indeed, developed, well-rounded, and compelling in your own mind, but without any way to reveal themselves as such, will remain stagnant and dull. Plot drives character development, and conflict drives plot. Conflict between protagonist and antagonist. Conflict between protagonist and love interest. Conflict between protagonist and supporting characters. Conflict between protagonist and an army of armed armadillos. Really, it doesn’t matter~as long as the conflict exists. Plot is the direction that your story takes. The main events which define your novel. It is the backbone of your novel, without which the entire thing would fall apart.  All in all, plot is extremely essential to your novel~as you hopefully knew already.

1.Build up over time

Pace your story. Don’t give it all away at once~give the readers time to digest and wonder at what’s going to happen next. Allow the events to unfold naturally, while keeping things moving. The only thing worse than a story that moves too quickly is one that moves too slowly~even if the plot itself is excellent, unbearably slow pacing will bore readers and may result in them giving up on your book entirely. Overly fast pacing will overwhelm and confuse readers. If your plot is executed so quickly that it doesn’t make any sense, no one’s going to to want to read it. Instead, allow conflict to build over the course of the novel, continuing to escalate tensions until the climax is reached.

2.Keep them guessing

Write out your plot in a single sentence. Stare at it. Drink a cup of coffee and stare at it some more. Does it seem familiar? Have you seen the almost exact same sequence of events before, in a film or novel or play? Odds are, your plot will be very similar to a thousand other plots in the world of literature. Ensure that what you’re writing will not seem too familiar to readers. Keep your plot original~while the events that take place may be very similar to a previous work, find a way to make your story unique and, to make a little play on words, novel. Once your plot has achieved a certain level of originality, work with it a little. Try and find ways to surprise readers. Make a list of eleven possible events that could occur and cross off the first ten that came to your mind~if it seemed obvious to you, it will seem obvious to readers. But ensure that your plot twists don’t seem to fly at readers out of the blue and smash them over the head with a bowling ball. Check that your plot is believable, fluid, and retains a certain level of realism, even in a fantasy world.

3.Keep it simple, stupid!

If you have no idea what’s going on, neither will your readers. Don’t make your plot so complicated that readers are lost. This is perhaps the worst mistake an author can make. If one cannot follow the story, there is no point in the story existing. Finding the balance between overwhelmingly complex and un-inspiringly simple can be a difficult task~but never fear, it is not impossible. Simple does not mean that your plot has to be boring. It means it must be understandable. Your plot can certainly be highly complex, as long as it is executed in a manner which the reader will understand. Otherwise, you might as well type out two hundred pages of Lorem ipsum placeholder text.

4.Leave them satisfied~or dying for more

Build up all that tension through the story-line until you reach the climax, and then absolutely floor the reader. Make their jaw drop. Make them stop, blink, and read it again. Your climax is the defining moment of your story~make it important. Make it mean something. And then, after all that tension has been building up, release it. Resolve the conflict. Your reader has been holding their breath. Let them take a nice, big, exhalation. Be careful not to drag the resolution on too long, or you risk spoiling all the nice tension you built up before. Your ending does not have to be a happy one, but it should satisfy the readers, tie up the loose ends, and give some sense of resolution, even if it is an open ending. If your book ties in to a sequel or is part of a series, write out two separate plot lines. One for the series, one for the individual novel. This way, you can leave some elements unresolved and encourage readers to come back for the next installment, while still cleanly finishing your plot.

Plot is all about conflict. Without some form of conflict, there is really very little reason to read a novel. There must be change, there must be growth, and there must be tension. Write your plot so that readers will clearly understand it, and write it so that even you yourself are surprised by it. With finely crafted pacing and a satiating resolution, you may just find that you’ve constructed one of what every novel needs~a killer plot.

Happy writing! Love to all,

Baylie

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