With this post, Publetariat welcomes indie author C. Patrick Shulze as a regular site Contributor.
To create a meaningful plot, you need at least one main character who suffers some level of conflict, that inability to achieve what it is he wants. This conflict, his emotional reactions to the obstacles placed before him, is the crux of your plot. It is this inexorable series of obstacles your hero faces, and how he overcomes them, that hooks your readers.
The secret to plot is that it flows from your characters.
When you write a story, you create a sequence of events that move the hero toward what it is he wants. However, your greatest effort should be in your introduction of conflict, those ever-larger obstacles and the increasing resistance your hero experiences. You first give him a goal to surpass, then once he completes this task, deny him his desire. Then you have him master a more difficult challenge, then deny him yet again. Do this over, and over, and over again. Of course, the hero will at some point reach his goal, but you must keep it from him as long as the story, and your word count, allow. This constant battle between upheaval and triumph is what develops your plot and engrosses your readers.
Your character’s conflict, and thus the plot, may derive from either internal or external sources. Regardless, they thwart his progress until the very end of your novel. We all know external conflict can be exciting, but what can place your novel above others is your hero’s internal struggles. Consider this basic storyline: your hero has a burning desire to become a surgeon, but faints at the sight of blood. Which is the most moving aspect to the character’s goals? Is it the struggle to become a doctor or the sight of blood issue? His struggles to master his fear will have the most power with your readers.
In addition to plot, you have a wonderful tool you may employ called "SUBPLOT." That is, each major character is haunted by some minor conflict that further hinders him. This, too, can be internal or external in nature but if used effectively, can give a great deal of life to your novel.
The basis of this is your hero’s desire for something beyond all else that is kept from him. This ever-rising tension and conflict, or your character’s hardships, are what make up your plot.
"’The King died and the Queen died’ is a story. ‘The King died and the Queen died of grief’ is a plot." E.M. Forster
“Plots are what the writer sees with.” Eudora Welty
“Plot is structuring the events of the story.” Aristotle
“Character, of course, is the heart of fiction. Plot is there to give the characters something to do.” John Dufresne
“When a character does something, he becomes that character; and it’s the character’s act of doing that becomes your plot.” Henry James
Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.