You can add HTML directly into this element to render on the page.

Just edit this element to add your own HTML.

Plot Your Novel

​About Writing     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

Today I want to say a few words about plot. Please open your hymn books to chapter 6. At some point in your plan (your “outline” plan or your “pantzer” plan), a writer formulates the framework of a story they'd most want to read, with a goal of enticing readers to keep turning the pages. We need our book to be entertaining for our reading audience. How can we create compelling plots?

If you are lucky, your characters will help you write the story. As I have mentioned before, characters drive the story you tell. But at some level, there is always a plot. It may seem like gravel flying from the back tires of accelerating characters, but it’s still there somewhere. Characters and plot need one another like words and music in popular songs. Unless you write in journal or epistolary format (epistolary means letters going between people in a novel) or some types of characterless non-fiction, one usually cannot exist without the other to complement it. However, there is some precedent in the hundred-year-old work entitled Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello if you are wondering what characters do without a plot.

Here are many of the ingredients I use to create innovative plots:

(a) Early introduction to the motivating pull of the story; a book plot needs to have a central stake, which is the problem or challenge that the protagonist faces. The stake should be strong enough to keep the reader engaged throughout the book.

(b) a sequence of adventures (and we’ll use the term adventures loosely here) with the effect of constantly undermining possible solutions to the major core stake(s) of your characters; The characters should evolve throughout the story, learning and growing from their experiences. If a subplot doesn’t directly bear on the protagonist’s ability to achieve his or her goals and motivations, then the subplot should be deleted or rewritten.

(c) A book plot should have tension, suspense, and drama. These elements keep the reader engaged and make them want to know what happens next. A marked increase in jeopardy towards the end of the novel increases reader attention. If the jeopardy in your story doesn’t escalate, the reader will get quickly bored.

(d) Generally a proper outcome to the core stakes (although there is no requirement for such an ending. Sometimes the good guys lose though that concept has not been popular in modern literature unless a sequel is coming - Star Wars may be the prime example of this). A plot usually resolves the central stakes in a satisfying way, ties up any loose ends, and provides closure for the reader.

(e) A story with no dialog is considered a "telling" story rather than a "showing" story. Readers generally want “showing” stories that will require some level of dialogue between characters. Character conversations “show” the speaker’s intelligence, courage, and integrity without lengthy description. I also use dialogue to help with character development, advancing the plot, creating atmosphere, revealing a character’s behavior.

Multiple-points-of-view is an interesting concept. That is, when a number of people either tell the same story or various different parts of the story. It works well for thrillers and psychological dramas, and a host of other novel types that are driven by the drip-drip-drip of information release. Using multiple viewpoints, not all of whom are protagonists, can help move a plot forward in these types of novels. However, it may be a little confusing in a romantic comedy, for example, unless your concept of humor is very dark; like my particular humor. Bear in mind things depend on story, as much as genre. Consider what works best for your novel. 

From my experience, third person narration writers tell us that “head hopping” is a bad idea. Here I’ll ask that you do as I say and not as I do. My Hollow Man Series is written in the first person so the protagonist cannot possibly know everything that’s going on. As a result, the antagonistic characters requested separate scenes to explain their side of the stories.