A good story needs characters, scenes and ideas that hook the readers from page one till the end. However, it is a gripping plot that makes a good novel great. If your plot is not written right, your story has failed. Writers get lost easily into the worlds they create, and spawn stories that are flat, or impossible to follow. Creating a gripping, page-turning plot is not that difficult, as long as you remember the following techniques.
1. Start with a prologue
Why? I hear you ask. It’s been done so many times before! True, and it works. It’s not a cliché, when it’s done right. Prologues can be a powerful beginning of a great novel. No, it’s not the start of the action, but the cause of that action. It’s what causes the story to move forward. Depending on genre, prologues have a different form, but their purpose is the same: to set the scene, the world, and the characters, even if the characters don’t seem to be immediately connected to it.
2. Begin from chapter two
Many writers feel the need to set up the characters’ lives before they start with the action. However, try to jump straight to chapter two in your draft, and see what happens! Action is what draws the reader’s into your world, especially if the protagonist’s life is in danger. No, we don’t really need to know how your heroine got up at 7 AM every day and reflected on who she was, what she looked like, and how she felt about herself. What we need to be shown is that she is doing something outside of her ordinary life. There is time for reflections and getting to know her better later in the novel.
3. Think outside the box
Some writers determine a plot before they start writing. Some writers want to be surprised and plan a little ahead as they go along. This is not important – both types of novelists can bring forth an astoundingly good novel with a great plot. When writing your novel, or outlining your plot, scene by scene, is to think outside the box when it comes to your scenes and how your story moves forward. Brainstorm several ideas and outcomes to a scene before you write it, and never use the first outcome or consequence that came to mind. That one is a cliché for sure. Do you know why? Because you’ve read it (in novels) and have seen it (movies) so many times.
4. Control the tension in every scene
No novel can handle more than two scenes infused with a very high tension level. However, a novel will feel too flat if it contains only a few tension filled scenes. The key is to give an objective to the protagonist in every scene, and, depending on how difficult it is to achieve the said objective, control the tension. Use “show and tell” to do this: the more the action and emotions of the character is shown, the more tension grows. Since scene dynamics is important, if the tension gets too high, but it’s not the right moment for it, use “tell” to simmer things down. That way, the reader is always interested in what your protagonist is doing, but will not get tired from never ending action.
5. Spice things up with subplots or parallel plots
Introduce more than one subplot in your novel, and make sure that at least one or two are crucial to the main plot. The most common example is the character’s arc of the protagonist. If the protagonist doesn’t fundamentally change their inner self by the end of the novel, the readers are going to be disappointed. Give your characters secrets, and their unfolding can be the subplot. Another option is to create a double, parallel plot. Many novels today incorporate more than one genre just by having two parallel plots. For example, a good science fiction novel can be looked upon as romance – because of the relationship that was built between the protagonist and his love interest. Parallel plots always have to be dependent on each other – show the reader that if the second plot was excluded, the outcome of the first one would be very different.
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a 22-year-old art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.