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  The Plot Thickens
by Rob Parnell

It's important to bear in mind that none of the advice below will be useful to you unless you know your main characters well. This is because most good plotting is about the decisions your characters make when confronted with specific situations.

For instance, if you're half way through plotting a novel and you need to know how Janus would react to the death of his sister, if you don't know Janus very well, you might set your novel off in a completely unbelievable direction.

Readers won't necessarily know what happened but will 'get' on a subconscious level that Janus did something out of character. This is not good because, to you also, you will be writing a novel you don't believe in anymore. It won't feel right - one of the main reasons why authors stop writing their novels.

There are many reasons why authors don't finish novels but in my experience you can usually trace back problems to initial characterization - if it's not strong, the story won't work.

Also bear in mind that I believe it's important to plot your novel first - before you start writing. It might be only in the vaguest of ways but, and here's the kicker, you MUST know the ending before you start.

Again, from my experience of working with authors and writers for many years, most books fail to get finished because the writer hadn't decided how the story would end.

Now, I know some of you will howl. Many writers say they don't plot - they let the action unfold for them as they write. Stephen King has famously said that the Dark Tower series just comes to him and he writes it without knowing the ending. But this is deceptive - Stephen King DOES know the ending, in his subconscious mind, in the sense that his characters will always behave in certain ways.

The authors that say they don't plot - and finish their novels - have an advantage. They have a value system that will dictate the correct ending. As a first time novelist you can't afford to assume you can rely on this facility - it's something that comes with age and experience. Writing without plotting requires a maturity that is beyond most of us.

Cause and Effect

There is one very easy way to plot any story and it relies on the law of cause and effect.

Try this.

Take your main character and place him/her in a situation. Bear in mind he/she has a an agenda. Now, have something happen to them. How do they react? What decisions do they make. Depending on your answer, this is Plot Point One.

Next, based on the actions your main character made, where did your story go? Resolution? Or some little way toward resolution? Whatever. The next part of the story should be dependent upon and caused by the previous plot point.

Keep doing this while plotting and your whole story will make sense, even if you go off at tangents and tell all kinds of interweaving stories. As long as you know the ending - or at least have some idea of a resolution that your story will dictate, you can do what you like - take your story wherever seems to make sense at the time.

But this is a golden rule about plotting:

This Happens Because This Happens Because This Happens etc etc.

Plots don't make sense unless they are logical and coherent to the reader. They also won't work to you unless they make sense. It's important when plotting to make sure that no events happen without proper cause - and that your characters don't behave inappropriately.

Keep writing!

Copyright Rob Parnell

This article is condensed from The Easy Way to Write Fantasy:

You can visit Rob and read more of his writing tips here at http://easywaytowrite.com



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    Novel Writing tips for fiction writers