book writing

Planning Your Plot: It’s the Heart of Your Story

Don’t think that planning your plot is important? Think again. Your plot is the backbone of your novel and story. While all of us utilize different approaches when we create stories, the plot will always be present. Thus, it must be considered when crafting your novel.

If we look up the official definition of “plot” we will see that it is defined as “the main events of a story, novel or play interrelated and presented in an effective sequence as determined by the writer”. How we plan the major events in our stories is absolutely critical in conveying emotions and feelings of the reader. Those building blocks are essential in determining the success of any story or novel.

Should Planning your Plot Should Come First?

I found a few posts that address building and moving plots effectively. I encourage every reader to give them a read:

4 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist

When I started reading Gone Girl, I’ll admit I had high expectations. “It’s incredible,” one friend told me after recommending it and praising it profusely. “You just won’t even believe what happens …” She stopped short, looking guilty. “I can’t say any more,” she said, almost at a whisper. “I don’t want to give anything away.”

If you haven’t read the novel, I don’t want to give anything away either. But suffice it to say (and you’ve probably heard it already) that Gone Girl contains some killer plot twists. The narrative builds and builds, and then—boom—a major revelation is revealed. And then another. And another. It makes for a delicious, tense, uncomfortable, and incredibly thrilling ride.

What Does It Mean to Move the Plot?

“Move the plot, move the plot—everything in your story must move your plot!!!”

So rail all writing professors.

Meanwhile, the writers themselves just want to bang their heads against their keyboards in desperate frustration. “Okay, yes, fine, great—I want to move the plot. But what does that even meeeeaaannnn?!?!?!?!”

6 Ways to Identify a Contrived Plot

Contrived plots not only stretch plausibility, they hurt an author’s credibility with readers. They trust us to tell them a solid tale, and they lose that faith if we cheat by forcing events to unfold and benefit our protagonists so they win with no effort.

Some argue that every story is contrived, because as writers, we manipulate what happens to tell our tale. On one hand this is true, but it’s how we manipulate that determines how contrived a story reads. For example, if we show our protagonist coming home from her karate class in the first few pages, it’s no surprise to readers when she’s able to fight off an attacker later. But if we mention she’s a black belt after the attack has been thwarted—or worse, comment that, “it was good thing she’d just earned that black belt” during the attack, then it’ll likely feel contrived. The vital skill wasn’t in the story until it was needed.

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