Creating a book people can’t put down starts with the plot.
You need a baseline that makes people want to find out what happens, a plot that propels them through the pages.
To craft a page-turner, you’ll need a gripping plot that brings readers on the ride of their lives.
How can you develop a winning baseline?
Read on to find out!
What is the Story Plot?
The plot of a story is the sequence of events that occur. The plot makes or breaks your story. Great plots are page-turners, dull ones will have readers tossing your book to the wayside.
The plot is the heart of your novel, it’s the engine and it’s what keeps it going.
The two big questions that every story should answer are:
- What happens?
- This is your plot
- What does it mean?
- This is your theme.
Plot and theme go hand in hand. Themes can connect two parallel plots, and the theme is what your reader should mull over after reading. The plot is a vessel to carry the theme.
Types of Plots
The 7 plot categories are:
- Race. These stories are about the chase for fame or wealth, and they require the characters to overcome hurdles for success.
- The Great Gatsby
- The Devil Wears Prada
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Change. The character undergoes a huge transformation. The plot is about their change and development.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Adventure. Stories about heading somewhere new, trying new experiences, and facing many challenges.
- Harry Potter
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- Romance. Misunderstandings, jealousy, and obstacles menace the peace of lovers.
- The Fault in Our Stars
- Romeo and Juliet
- Gift. a lead rising to heroism by sacrificing for others.
- Charlotte’s Web
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Lure. The character faces temptation or a lure like rage or revenge. They must decide to give in to the lure or not, and often experience growth through self-discovery.
- A Christmas Carol
- Of Mice and Men
- Animal Farm
- Mistake. An ordinary person experiences a grave, complicated situation that he must overcome.
- Finding Nemo
- The Color Purpose
- Indiana Jones
The basic plot type is only part of your challenge. Your main goal is to capture the reader and keep them enthralled the entire time.
The Key to Plot Development
Once you’ve got an idea for a plot, you must vet the idea. Two important considerations are:
- Can I write at least 75,000 words on this story?
- Is the plot powerful enough to keep the reader’s attention all the way through?
Dean Koontz is a brilliant American author of many hit suspense thrillers, and he certainly knows a thing or two about plot development. In his book How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, Dean shares some of his most coveted writing tips. In the next section, we’ll review his brilliant outline for story structure.
Dean Koontz’s Plot Structure Outline
Make things difficult for your main character as quickly as you can.
Throwing your main character into deep trouble is an excellent way to entice readers. What “trouble” means depends on your genre. For the thrillers Koontz typically writes, this could mean a life-threatening situation. However, for a romance, it may be deciding between two tempting suitors and choosing wrong.
The trouble can’t be a minor inconvenience, it has to be high stakes. Of course, readers will only care about this trouble if they’re invested in your main character. First, you have to get readers invested in the main character, then you throw them into trouble nation.
Amplify the trouble with the character’s actions.
Life shouldn’t be a cakewalk for your character. Build the intensity and concern by increasing the trouble. Any and everything your character does only makes it worse, but make sure the complications are logical. Progressively, the situation becomes worse.
The situation should appear hopeless.
The more your character does, the worse it gets. Eventually, things will seem hopeless. This is The Bleakest Moment according to novelist Angela Hunt. This moment should challenge even you as a writer to find a solution.
The Bleakest Moment forces your protagonist to act. From their obstacles, the lead learned how to overcome the situation that only seemed beyond escape.
The hero succeeds.
Finally, it’s time for a reward. The payoff is that your hero succeeds against the odds. They take action, and readers earn a finish that keeps their eyes scrolling until the last word.
Tips for Developing Your Plot
- Study examples of effective plot development. Look at how the characters change, the sequence of events, the locations, and more.
- Layout the timeline of the events in your plot. Take a trip down memory lane to elementary school. The plot has a beginning, middle, and end. Start simple.
- Develop intriguing characters. This is what gets people to care about their challenges.
- Ask for an outside opinion. This will help you find holes in your plot or determine ways you can make it more gripping.
Avoid These Plot Killers
Every single word in your story has to count. This is the only way to craft a compelling plot.
Readers don’t want to spend hours simply reading about the setting and environment. Yes, these things matter, but you must weave them into the narrative as the plot developed. If your reader is not hooked by the end of page one, the plot won’t work.
Plot killer #1: Slow, winding plots.
Your main character could be a hero, but they cannot be perfect. Do not create a main character that never messes up. You want a likable hero, but readers also want to see their struggles. Show the imperfections, layout a character arc.
Plot killer #2: Flawless main characters.
Additionally, villains have to be multi-dimensional. Even the bad guys are not all bad, there’s a reason for them, maybe a hint of a soft spot. Give the motivation for their evil.
Pot killer 3: Flat villains.
All characters need dimension, this is crucial for your plot.
Resources for Learning More About Plot Development
One great way to study plot development is through reading. Pay attention to how the best craft their baseline and captivate their reader through the plot. Some novels to consider include:
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by Morton Freedgood
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King
- Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
There are also many helpful resources for learning more about the ins and outs of plot development. A few to check out are:
- Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
- The Secrets of Story Structure by K. M. Weiland
- The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson
The purpose of a story is to deliver an engaging experience for the reader. A well-develop plot will do far more than just educate or entertain the reader, it will move them.
When you break it down, writing a strong plot is about developing intriguing characters, putting them through challenges, and revealing what happens. With the resources above, you can write even better plots.