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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Before you start plotting your novel, answer three questions:

Whose story is this?

What is this story about?

Where am I going with this story?

These three questions have to be answered, whatever kind of story you plan to write. Whether it's romance, mystery, mainstream, whatever, you have to know these three main ingredients for your story.

Whose story is it:
Choose one main viewpoint character—either your hero or your heroine. Even if you use multiple points of view, there must be one character who is dominate—the other (hero or heroine) is almost equal, but not quite.

You may use more than one or two points of view, but they are not equal to the main characters, so they must play a smaller role. Your main character gets the most space, your next character gets almost as much, but not quite, your other characters get a smaller amount of space.

And always ask yourself if these other point of view characters are necessary to tell the story the way you want it told.

(If you use more than two points of view, try to hold it to four at the most. More than that will confuse your reader) You want to introduce your main characters to the reader, and you do that as soon as possible. Then you want to involve the reader in the story and you do that by staying with your main characters long enough to form a bond between the reader and the character. Skipping around from one viewpoint to another, between a multitude of characters doesn't stay with one character long enough to pull the reader into the story.

Name your characters: Your reader won't care about a nameless man or woman.

The stronger your characters are, the better your plot. Don't make your characters perfect. Perfect is boring.

Don't dump information about your character into the story in chunks. Show it through action, dialogue, and internal thoughts. Don't give your reader a long paragraph showing Jane's personality quirks, what she thinks about things, what her background is, show it through Jane's behavior.

What is this story about:
What does your main character want, and what stops him from getting it? This is the driving force of your story, and make sure it's a serious want or need, not something that could be resolved if everyone just sat down and talked it over.

Your character can either want something, or want to get away from something.

Something is happening, or is about to happen to shake the character out of her safety zone.

Have a sense of motion, something going on.

Never start with a dream, a flashback, back story, a long passage of description, or internal monologue.

Choose one dominant objective. This is the problem your story is built around. It has to be something that will change your character and that will send his life in a new direction.

Opposition: Who opposes your character? What does your main character have to overcome to reach her goal? Who stands in his way, and why? And make it something almost insurmountable. Make your hero struggle to win. Don't make it easy on him. Make your opposition strong. Your character can struggle against flesh and blood, or some outside force, like nature—a hurricane, tornado, landslide, etc.

Where Am I Going With This Story:
A strong ending: write a strong story with a weak ending, and you'll lose a reader. No one likes to reach the last page and have the book end with a whimper. Always send your reader away satisfied.

Additional Ingredients You Need To Plot:

People buy books to read about people. The better you know your characters, the better you can bring them to life on the page. First of all, you need to know your character's background. Know his personality, his ordinary life. Then you have to hit him with something that knocks him out of his safety zone. Show him struggling
to cope. And we don't all cope in the same manner. How will this character you have invented cope with this major problem.

And your character must be likable. He should have flaws, even be a bit of a rogue, but he has to be likable. Most of us don't hang out with hateful people. We don't want to read about them either.

Where does your character live. What does she do for a living? Make your reader see the location. Don't describe every detail, but give enough information to place the reader in the setting. Avoid paragraphs of description. Work the setting into the story.

Let your characters speak like real people. Listen to the way people
you know talk. Eavesdrop. Keep notes on interesting phrases and speech patterns, and match the dialogue to the character's personality, age, and lifestyle.

And your book should be at least half dialogue.(If it's not then you're probably telling a good portion of your story instead of showing it by letting your character move and talk)

Don't dump information in chunks. Let your character act first, then explain later. And when you do explain, remember the iceberg. Show a little at a time. Set what you want your reader to know inside dialogue and conflict.

So, before you begin to plot:
Choose your viewpoint characters, and determine whose story this is.

Decide what your story is about and stay focused on that. Don't go wandering down side roads.

Get acquainted with your characters. Decide where they live, what they do for a living, how they talk, etc.

Give your main character a strong dominant problem, one that won't be easy to solve.

Choose a strong opposition, what or whom your character must overcome in order to win.

And have some idea where you're going with your story—know something about your ending before you get there.

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