Sunday, October 11, 2009


This week we're going to be talking plot. Now, I'm sure most of you know plenty about plot so I'm not even going to try to explain it other than a basic definition.

Plot is more than a series of's like the frame of a building with the building being the novel. Plot moves chronologically, it begins in one place, moves through time to another. Events are related to each other. For a plot to be effective, the intensity of each event must be greater than the last.

If we wish our plots to have a feeling of increasing intensity then we have to make our readers care about our characters. The character's problems must be serious/significant and they can't just be solved with no effort on the character's part. There needs to be struggle, defeat and them some more struggle. you start thinking about your story's plot, make notes about what your character wants, what events can take place to hinder your character's journey and give your character some challenging.

In How To Write A Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, he says something to the effect of find out the worst thing that could happen to your character...then make it happen.

And while I know this is very good advice, I have a hard time torturing my characters. What about you? Do you find yourself protecting your characters or do you torture them?

Oh, for more on plot, check out the book Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. This is an excellent book and has exercises at the end of each chapter to apply what you learn.


  1. My biggest problem with plot is first fitting everything together, especially when I'm in 'large world thinking mode' and then when I'm trying to piece the book's plot in with the larger arc (which I plan on spanning three books).

    Then I look at my plot summary, all proud of myself, and pull out Maass's book. Then I get sad again. Although I've done a great job of linking everything together, piecing the main plot points with the smaller ones, I know this story will get tossed right into the slush pile. At least, as it is now.

    It's tough to challenge your characters. I'm glad I've finally stopped writing drafts of this story and instead figuring out those worst case scenarios for my characters and putting them smack in the middle.

    If you're like me and have a hard time putting your characters in nasty situations, grab your writing buddy and let them have it. Maybe with some extra prodding we can really put our readers on the edge: "Ok, this is bad but can the situation get worse...?"

    What do you think, Jean? What's the best way to break away from protecting our characters or at the least forcing ourselves to think like evil authors?

    - Chrissy

  2. It's not that I have a problem torturing my characters. It's that I don't have a twisted enough mind to think up good ways to torture them. I'm too boring. :)


  3. I guess that would be like any writing exercise and should be called, "How to torture your characters." Practice makes perfect, right? I know I don't naturally think that way.

  4. I'm not sure I know who to torture them either.

    In this mystery I'm working on now, I knew what the worst thing could be but just couldn't bring myself to do it to her. I do plan to let her think it happened though.:-)

    I do think it sorta needs to be taken scene by scene. What's the worst thing that could happen in this scene? Is it something I want to happen, will it move the story forward? If so, then maybe it should happen.