Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ways to go from Plod to Plot

Many stories fail before they begin. They lack that special something that engages the reader. The story may be self-indulgent. It may lack focus and plod along without any clear direction. These things will cause the reader to put down a book and never pick it up again. Below are some tips on how to keep your readers from boredom and frustration:

Story:
  • Have a beginning, middle and end. They don’t necessarily have to be in that order.
  • Make sure you grab your readers on the first page of your novel, on the first paragraph, on the first line.
  • Take out any scene that doesn’t add anything to the story
  • If you are bored writing a scene, then the reader will be doubly bored reading it. Remove it or change it.
  • make sure there is something new and interesting about your plot otherwise the reader will feel like they have read it all before.

Characters:
  • Create believable, relatable characters.
  • Don’t use names that are long and difficult to remember or pronounce.
  • Characters need conflict but often it’s how they react to conflict that makes them interesting.
  • Take out any character that doesn’t add anything to the story. If two characters perform the same function in your story then remove one.
  • Weak and whiney characters will make a reader put down your book.
  • Readers want to see growth and change in the characters.

Description:
  • Weave in description rather than dropping in a solid block of it. Many readers skip descriptions anyway.
  • There’s no need to describe every detail in a room or every action a character takes. Readers have a vivid imagination so our descriptions should only be enough to pique their imaginations.

Pace and Rhythm:
  • Times have changed and continue to change. The majority of the population prefer a faster paced book than they did 20 years ago.
  • Rhythm is the music of your novel. It’s the subtle magic that keeps the reader’s eye dancing across the page. Match rhythm to pace and even a slow scene won’t become a plod.

What do you do when your stories begin to plod? Can you think of any other tips?

34 comments:

  1. Great tips. Easier said than done, but great tips!

    I'm listening to an audio book with my daughter. The MC is so whiney. I would've given up but my child doesn't mind it.

    My first WIP broke so many of these rules. MY MC was unlikable and whiney. And I used to get sidetracked with description.

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  2. Stellar post, Lynda!!! Honestly; this is like the perfect "cheat sheet." Hey, where can I buy a poster?? Haha!

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  3. Theresa, yep, I recently finished reading a book where the character turned into a weak whiney thing. I finished the book but it was a hard slog to get through.

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  4. Paul, haha glad you like it. The posters will be on sale from midnight. Grand opening. There will be cookies... ;)

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  5. I love the part about weaving in description. Some books have giant paragraphs and you're right. I skip them.

    Great advice, thanks for posting it!

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  6. Excellent advice :D I agree that people nowadays prefer faster paced novels than in previous years. Whiny characters are a book shutter for me, too.

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  7. Words Crafter, yep, I skip them too ;)

    Jamie, I recently reread an old book I used to love only to find it really slow now. lol.

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  8. Always great tips Lynda, thanks for sharing.

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  9. Excellent tips! Especially the part about names. I was really conscious of that one when coming up with names for my characters. Science fiction names are often too 'out there!'

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  10. "They don’t necessarily have to be in that order."
    he he I loved that one, Lyndylove ;)

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  11. Lynda- Great post, really detailed about what to do, I think I will use this for future reference, thank you so much for posting

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  12. Excellent tips and reminders! I'm going to bookmark this one for future reference.

    I always worry about when I'm writing a scene and not feeling into it... I always go back and try to make it into something I feel excited about :)

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  13. Excellent tips very well put! And they sound fairly easy listed like this, don't they? Not so easy to put into practice LOL!

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  14. Toyin, thanks

    Alex, yes, scifi in particularly is notorious for weird names.

    Dezzy, hehe :)

    Summer, glad it helped :)

    WritingNut, I've written a few scenes that have bored me while writing. Whenever I go back I inevitably have to cut them or radically change them.

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  15. KarenG, it's deceiving isn't it ;)

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  16. Great post and great tips, very inspiring ! Maybe today will be a writing day after all ;-)

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  17. Wonderful tips and post! In fact the character part inspired a story idea :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  18. These are super-duper! I'm a real plotter but my current muse is being written by emotional creativity alone. When the scene hits me (no matter the order) I write it.

    Love the post!

    Clarissa

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  19. Great post! I think I'll print this off and lay it on my writing desk. :-)

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  20. I love description, but I agree, don't go overboard and weave it in. Don't throw it at the reader in big chunks. I also recommended a crit partner move a character description back. On the first page of the novel, it interupted the scene and I got lost. Grounding me in the scene first was more important.

    And too detailed is annoying - like telling me specifically what kind of box it is. Unless it is essential to the plot, let me imagine my own cardboard box.


    Great advice, Lynda. :D Hope your writing is going well.

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  21. KatieO, every day is a writing day! ;)

    Jules, oh wow! I'm so glad you were inspired. I'm curious about the story.

    Clarissa, emotional creativity... challenging. That would make a great exercise too.

    Kiernan, thanks :)

    M Pax, yes, excellent example of why its important to give the reader freedom to imagine.

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  22. Wow. SO deatailed I love it!! I'm afraid that with all these great ideas you've left none for me. Not that I blame you for naming all the awesome!

    Man it's nice to be back and commenting! I've missed your blog!

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  23. All great advice, and a lot of it. I'm constantly amazed at how much detail and planning must go into a novel. Some of these things you have to think about later, after the rough draft is written, or you get bogged down!

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  24. Wonderful tips, Lynda. Loved them. I agree that it is important to plan and plot a novel and edit out all the unnecessary stuff that goes into it. And strong characters with clear goals will win over weak characters anytime.

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  25. These are great tips Lynda. I was reading my latest MS outloud the other day and got to a part that where I said, God that's boring. I cut it out and think the work's better for it.

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  26. Jen, welcome back.

    Carol, for sure, all these things don't need to be pre-planned, but they should be considered before "The End" is typed.

    Rachna, I love strong characters.

    Melissa, hahaha, yeah, I've done that before.

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  27. So true on the subject of whiny characters!

    I sometimes write passages that are sort of for my own benefit -- I write my way through a question or problem. They're always the first things to get cut, though. They're procedural, and they plod plod plod!

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  28. Great advice, Lynda! And it's perfectly timed, since I'm about to begin a new project. :-)

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  29. Amie, yes, I wrote those passages as well. Sometimes they stay, but mostly they get cut.

    Shannon, oo, good luck with your new project!

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  30. Ok, so I need to pin this up next to my computer!

    I am also a Christian who writes speculative fiction, but I haven't tried writing devotionals!
    Do you consciously weave your faith into your fiction, or do you let your faith speak for itself through the attitudes of your characters?

    :Dom

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  31. Dominic, my faith generally speaks for itself in the attitudes of my Characters. I've tried to write Christian fiction but I always fail because it comes across as too preachy.

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  32. Yes, I know what you mean. My goal is to open people's minds to the possibility of something beyond themselves, to enquire about the nature of good and evil. I'm with you - telling or even showing people directly does seem to come across preachy!

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  33. Dominic, that's a great way of approaching your fiction.

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  34. Great post! It would make a great check list for a critique group.
    Now a follower

    Nikki

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