The plot of the story is the goal or main point of the story.  The main reasons are (note: the following is paraphrased from Robyn Carr’s book Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction):

  • To get something: achieve or acquire.
  • To cause something: revenge or punishment or change.
  • To escape something: danger or pain.
  • To resolve something: get an answer or fix a problem.
  • To survive something: endurance or stamina.

There is a need to do something, which is essential (it is not a want). Layout a plan to include the type of plot (see above), the specific need of the character and its importance, and the obstacles that must be overcome.  Together these create urgency and should provide a sense of movement throughout your book.  The conflict within the book pushes the book forward while the obstacles give the tension. To successfully use unexpected conflicts, alternate expected and unexpected conflicts while keeping all elements leading up to it reasonable and believable.

Tension and conflict must also line up with reader satisfaction.  There is a balance between the intensity of the conflict, progress by the main character, and new obstacles to overcome.  A book gets very good when the conflict and tension come to a breaking point.

A good technique is to write an outline of the story (very rough), add details, revise it, and rewrite it. If not enough detail is provided, the reader may become confused instead of building tension.  Organize your facts and time line so your readers ask the right questions.  You don’t want to the reader to be left completely in the dark and wondering what is going on.  Subplots should not overshadow the main plot, but they can shift the story’s feel temporarily (e.g. comic relief or another problem setup for the next book). Some pitfalls to avoid include not having a well-developed plot idea, not resolving the plot (being to vague or too many subplots), not making things believable.

Mechanics of good storytelling include:

  • Steady flow of action that consistently pushes the story forward instead of burst of detail, action, dialog, and then detail again.
  • Don’t mix your tenses: Present tense (we go), past tense (we went), future (we will go), past perfect (we had gone), and past participle (we have gone). Try to stick with one, but if you mix them make sure that the reader can understand it.
  • Transition sentences or paragraphs that bridge time can be complicated.  Watch out that the transition is not too short.  You also don’t want stay in one place (setting within the book) or time too long.  Remember that transitions move time and people to new places.  Just don’t lose your reader in the transition.
  • Try to avoid using too much passive voice; your story will seem dated instead of current and happening now.
  • Try to stick with one perspective throughout the story. The different types of narrative perspective are: first person (I did…), third person multiple views from the perspective of individual characters (he did and believed…), third person objective/factual (he did and had brown hair), and omniscient or distant (they did…).  The last one is looking at events from an outsider’s perspective, like a reader who not involved with the story.

To choose the perspective of the story,consider who the most important character is, how the perspective will influence the story, characters, action, and plot.