Tag Archive - plot

Fashioning Characters Based on Plot and Premise

When I think about the many novels I’ve written, I realize I don’t always start with a plot idea. Sometimes a topic or theme intrigues me, or I’ll have an image of a character in the throes of a moral dilemma.

I remember reading about how C. S. Lewis came up with his Narnia series. He had a picture in his mind of a faun carrying a parcel and an umbrella through a snowy wood. From there, the The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe sprang into existence.

The novel I’m currently writing, a supernatural thriller called Lightning Man, also was sparked by a picture in my head. I saw a man at the top of a mountain, his arms outstretched in a kind of messianic surrender to the heavens, willing lightning to strike him for the tenth time, intending to stop a terrorist by sacrificing his life as he grips the bad guy. From there I had to ask a lot of questions to find my story, and I encourage you to do the same with the ideas that excite you.

I wove a complex plot around that character and climactic moment I saw in my head (it’s taken me a couple of years, but it’s all in place now). But it all started with a picture of a nebulous character.

For my novel Someone to Blame, I started with a word or concept: blame. I wanted to explore the ways people blame themselves and others and the damage and hurt blame causes. From that germ of an idea, a plot developed—a story about a family who’ve suffered the loss of two sons and moved to a new town hoping to start over, only to get drawn into a heavy drama that mires the town in blame and subsequent danger.

In my conversations with numerous best-selling authors, I’ve learned that their story ideas are sparked in a myriad of ways.

Though ideas for stories begin in different ways, all roads lead to one key question: Who is this story about and what is that character’s journey? Continue Reading…

The Secret to a Great Plot Lies in Scene Structure

Do you want to know what the secret is to a great plot? If you read last week’s post, you already know the answer. No, it’s not having a fantastic concept and kicker. That’s not plot.

We’ve been looking at a special way to think of plot. Yes, it’s my way, but I’ve found this understanding of plot has helped hundreds of my editing clients. Too many writers have great plot ideas and elements, but few really have a clue how to take all those great bits and turn them into a great novel. They often succumb to the false belief that their cool concept will somehow convert into a great novel.

The Daunting Chasm

There seems to be a huge chasm looming in front of many writers—with no bridge across. On one side stands the writer with all these terrific ideas, characters, themes, and conflict. On the other side is this nebulous thing called a coherent, finished novel ready to jump to the top of the best-seller lists. This seems to be the drop-off point for most novelists—ending in a long, painful fall to the bottom of the chasm. Continue Reading…

Plot and Subplots in a Series of Scenes

Ah, now we are getting somewhere, some of you may be thinking. We are finally going to look deeply at plot after taking a long dip into the four essential corner pillars of novel construction. In this year-long course I’m doing on this blog, we’re going to be looking at 12 pillars in all, and we are now on #5.

A great, strong plot is essential for building a terrific novel. There is no excuse for a writer of any novel to sacrifice good plot for the sake of anything—art, character study, or an important message. Without plot, you have no story. Period. So don’t misunderstand me if I appear to underemphasize plot at times.

Yes, I’m a “character-driven” novelist. The heart of my novels centers on my characters—what they need, want, fear, and strive for. I feel every novel must be character-driven in that way. But not at the expense of good plot. If you’ve had your manuscript critiqued by me, you’ll know I’m a real stickler about strong plot. Every little bit of every scene has to serve the needs of the plot. Continue Reading…

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