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How Novelists Can Work Plot Twists into Their Stories

Plot twists are important and powerful elements in a novel. We took a quick look at twists last week, and I explained that you can have these twists in various places in your story, and they can vary in strength.

One novel may have lots of small twists that are basically complications and obstacles the protagonist encounters. But often you’ll have one or two huge twists that wrench the story, and those are terrific when done well.

So what do you need to keep in mind when creating a plot twist?

Twists are all about redirection. Going against expectations.

Think about what readers are expecting and hoping for at a given moment in the story. Then keep twisting the story into new directions that stun and delight them. Continue Reading…

Understanding Premise and the One-Sentence Story Concept

Over the last few weeks we’ve been taking a look at key moments in your novel’s structure. This week, before we get into the meat of my 10-20-30 Scene Builder concept, I want to make sure you have a clear understanding of premise and the one-sentence story structure.

We really can’t move forward until you have this nailed, so I’ll do my best to help you get there.

Most writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of the book. Yet, I see way too many novels in which there really isn’t a strong impacting incident. Or it’s in the wrong place.

I recently did a fifty-page critique on a novel (which wasn’t the author’s first novel either) that had fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What was the stated premise? Basically, it told of a man who has something precious taken from him and must face danger and horror to get that thing back. Huh? What did the first fifty pages have to do with any of that? Nothing. Continue Reading…

Ways Novelists Can Break from the Structural Rules

We’ve been looking at the downside to the three-act structure these last two weeks, and I’ve shared my thoughts on this.

Really, stories are basically a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and some writing instructors base their passion for the three-act structure on this. Meaning, since stories have a beginning, middle, and end, that must imply there are three acts.

You can use Aristotle’s concept and translate your idea into three acts: What is the first act? How the story begins. What is the second act? The middle of the story (which includes the main crisis of the dominant plot). The third act is the climax of the story and the resolution. Okay, it’s simplistic, but that’s how many justify the use of the three-act structure.

Doesn’t make sense to me. Continue Reading…

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