It’s been a long time since grade school story writing, and since nanowrimo is coming up soon, I think it’s time to brush up on plot.
First of all, where does a story come from? Where do you get that seed from that starts a book? What are the building blocks that go into making a story?
Some people call it the muse. But there is always something, some spark that starts a story. Maybe it’s a challenge you’re facing or you’ve been through. Maybe it’s a dream you’ve had, or a daydream. Maybe it’s a simple image that awoke your imagination. This is what a story starts with. If you haven’t got this, you don’t have a story. And the more powerful your inspiring spark, the more powerful your story has the potential to be.
This might be your inspiration, and if it is, you’re one step ahead. Some people call this the conflict. I’ve heard it boiled down to this: Your character WANTS a, BECAUSE b, BUT c happens, SO your character responds with d. This formula of “WANTS, BECAUSE, BUT, SO” applies to your big problem that takes the entire book to solve, and every little problem along the way.
This is that moment that your readers are waiting for, the one where everything comes together, where they say “aha!” If this is missing from your plot, or if it’s difficult to identify, then you have not delivered on the promise you gave at the beginning of the story – that your character will solve the big problem. I don’t mean everything will be all sunshine and roses, but that one big problem that you already defined will be wrapped up here.
Is this really starting to sound like grade school here? Your story will follow an arc pattern, if you were to draw out the plot in a graph measuring tension. You can’t just introduce the problem, meander through a pointless jaunt, and then bang! deliver the climax. There has to be some indication that the character is moving toward this climax, even if the path is a twisty one. See if you can identify significant landmarks along the way, and a pattern that leads to the high point.
Along the same lines of the rising action, you need to create, sustain, and heighten tension throughout your plot. If you solve a small problem, invent three more. Stack the odds against your character and make the reader really want them to succeed. Otherwise when your climax arrives, your reader will shrug and say “so what.”
Well, I’m going to get started on plotting my nanowrimo novel. Hopefully this helps you if you’re doing the same! 🙂