When it comes to novel writing, plot is king.
When you write a gripping plot that keeps flowing from one page to the next, you create a real page turner that readers will love.
It starts with having a great idea.
Once you have the idea and a solid premise, you’re ready to create the plot of your story.
Here are 4 tips for writing a gripping plot for your novel
1: The story must begin before the beginning
In every story there is an inciting incident that propels the protagonist into action. However, if the inciting incident is to resonate with the reader you must first introduce the characters and their normal lives.
The inciting incident in Romeo and Juliet, for instance, is when Romeo first sees Juliet. But in order to make that inciting incident matter Shakespeare had to introduce us to the lives of Romeo and Juliet first, and to their families. Otherwise we’d have no idea why the meeting of these “star-crossed lovers” matters.
So, how to write a good story: Introduce the characters before getting to the inciting incident, so the reader understands why the inciting incident matters.
2: The plot must be a sequence of events that sequentially lead the character from point A to point B
Aristotle says in The Poetics that a drama should be however long is necessary to take the character from point A to point B. Point A and Point B refer to the character themselves, e.g. from sad to happy, weak to strong.
A story, then, should be a sequence of events that each develop the character along the path from where they start (as a character) to where they end up (as a character).
To achieve this, plot out the character development and use a step-sheet to show how events lead the character through a process of development ultimately ending up where they need to be for the conclusion of the story.
So, how to write a good story: Make sure the sequence of events change the character on the right path of their character development. Most writers do this by plotting the character development and using a step-sheet.
3: The story ends with the character being the opposite of what they were in the beginning
The job of the story is to carry the character from pole to pole. A Christmas Carol wouldn’t be so amazing if Scrooge went from a miser to a slightly-less miserly person. He has to go from the most miserly person in town to the most generous person in town. That’s why the novel starts with him refusing to give anything to anybody and being miserable, and ends with him giving everything to everybody and being happy.
Make sure the character at the end is the opposite as the character in the beginning, at least insofar as relates to your premise and character development. It can be useful to shows a similar scene at the beginning and end, the beginning scene showing how the character reacts to Event A before development, the latter showing how he responds to the same event after development.
4: Writing The Conclusion Of Your Story
There are five elements that go into writing a satisfying conclusion. They are:
Surprise: Readers / viewers / players know that a story is nearing the end and begin to run out of focus because they think they’ve got the novel all sussed out. This is when you need to throw in a real surprise to spark their interest and get them excited again.
Emotion: A story is nothing without emotion. When Jack dies at the end of Titanic every woman in the audience cries. That’s a damn good conclusion. You should extract every ounce of emotional ooze from your novel for the conclusion. Really bring it home. Make people cry, cheer, get mad, or whatever else it requires to produce an emotional highpoint.
Poetic justice: We all love seeing justice served. We love that at the end of The Lion King Simba is finally made king and Scar gets his just-deserts. Fill your conclusion with some poetic justice.
The character reveals a new face: If your story has succeeded in its aim it must have produced a revelation in the character. The character(s) has changed. Show that. Make it obvious that this character is not the same now, after the journey, as they were in the beginning.
The story is brought full-circle: Tie up those loose ends and make sure that pivotal questions asked in the story are answered.
Next: Read my guide to 39 storytelling tips & techniques