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Three Ways to Build a Better Plot
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
Plot is how writers illustrate a story to their readers—which is why it’s so vital to craft a compelling one. It’s the foundation on which a story is built, and the weaker that is, the less likely the story will stand, let alone entertain. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a poor story idea, so it’s no wonder so many writers have trouble with plotting.
I love plotting myself, but even I’m always on the lookout for ways to make the process easier and more effective. Here are three things that I find particularly helpful when working on a new novel:
1. Know the Ending First
Since the whole goal of a novel is to solve the core conflict problem, knowing A) what that problem is and B) how that problem is resolved, makes it easier to plot it. Let’s look at a common way a novel’s plot is described:
Jaws is the story of a sheriff with a fear of the water who finds out a killer shark is terrorizing his beach during a major holiday weekend (the premise).
Next, let’s look at that same story with the ending as part of the idea:
Jaws is a story of a sheriff with a fear of the water who faces that fear to kill a killer shark terrorizing his town during a major holiday weekend (the general problem and how he solves it).
The premise version only gives the setup for the story. It doesn’t provide enough information to know what the sheriff does after this discovery. A large percentage of novels start out with this type of “plot” summary (I’ve done it, too), and it’s no wonder an equally large percentage of first drafts hit a wall around page 100.
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