Q of the Week: How Do You Keep Your Plot From Feeling Contrived?

This post, by Susan Dennard, Mandy Hubbard and Julie Eshbaugh, originally appeared on Let the Words Flow on 1/14/11.

This week’s QOTW comes from H. Holdsworth, who asks: How do you keep your plot from becoming contrived?

This is a tricky question since almost no plot can be completely “new”. Because of that, you can end up with that “contrived, ripped-off” feeling. I think the best way to avoid this is to give the story a unique aspect — maybe an ironic twist or a crazy-but-lovable character.

For example: wizarding schools? Done a thousand times. Boys who are the Only Ones to stop Evil Bad Guy? Also been done a thousand times. What makes Harry Potter special? The setting — Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, muggles, quidditch. It’s the world that made J.K. Rowling’s series really stand out and attract millions of readers.

Another example: vampire who loves a non-vampire? Done. An immortal who has waited forever to find his True Love? Done. What makes Twilight unique? That a vampire finds his true love, but he doesn’t just love her — he really wants to suck her blood and he’s not sure he can keep himself from doing it! That’s some situational irony. (Plus, it’s a great way to build tension! Whether or not this was intentional, it was a very clever plot device on Meyer’s part!)

One more example: noir detective stories? Definitely been done. Quest to solve best friend’s murder? Also been done. What makes Veronica Mars unique? The MC, Veronica — she’s a tough-as-nails teenager with sarcasm, sleuthing skills, and a softer side to boot. Viewers fell in love with her, and that kept us coming back each episode.

 

Read the rest of the post on Let the Words Flow.

Comments are closed.