I do like my “Five Things” posts, don’t I?
Well, this one is focussing on five things to avoid in your plot. No shit Sherlock, I hear you say, it’s literally the title of the article 🙂
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s crack on!
One – Delaying the introduction of the main quest in your story.
This can make your story boring. And it can put readers off if they begin to read and they haven’t got a sense of what’s in store for them or what the book is about.
To avoid this, use a plot outline and make sure you introduce the quest by the end of the first chapter. Don’t fill that first chapter with lots of character introductions and description.
Sometimes, I like to get the quest in the reader’s mind right at the beginning, in the opening line. I love to open a book with a bang.
Two – The conflict and obstacles aren’t escalated.
To make a story interesting, the hero has to face greater and greater challenges and obstacles. What’s the point to a story where the hero overcomes everything thrown at him too easily?
There has to be an increase in the difficulty as the plot develops. When you’re plotting, start off with little challenges in the beginning and then start to develop them. For example, the first challenge could be finding a key, the second challenge could be to use that key in a door that’s guarded by a big three-headed dog. Then, as the story progresses you can have the hero momentarily hurt as he defeats the bad guy’s henchmen. The hero then rises up, and, after a huge battle, he overcomes the big villain.
Three – Avoid too much unnecessary stuff.
Don’t cram your story full of things that don’t matter and won’t move the story on.
Refine your plot and make sure everything has a purpose.
Don’t give the hero a magic artefact if he’s not going to use it. Don’t add a character if they’re not part of the plot. Get rid of all unnecessary crap. Everything should have a reason.
Because unnecessary crap will only bore and confuse the reader.
Four – Deus ex Machina.
Deus ex Machina means God from the machine and is something that has its origins in ancient Greek theatre. It’s a plot device where an unsolvable problem is suddenly solved by the help of God.
This worked in Greek theatre. It doesn’t work now.
Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
If you’ve written yourself into a corner don’t use Deus ex Machina to get yourself out of it. It will turn readers off. If you find yourself in this situation, sorry, but you need to rethink that plot and write it again.
Five – Inconsistency.
Your writing – from writing style, tone, characterisation etc. – must stay consistent throughout the novel. There is nothing more off-putting than reading a story where someone changes their character inexplicably. Or their eyes change colour. Or the way they speak changes.
Keep it consistent.
I find plotting on paper helps me to keep inconsistencies to a minimum. As for character and world-building, I suggest putting together a “bible” of character sheets. I have these for each character where I write on their eye colour, for example or a few words that they like to use a lot. It’s a handy reference for when I forget. And, I do. Especially as I’m getting older!
Ohh, today’s post was very naggy wasn’t it? I’m sorry, it’s probably to do with the full moon or something 🙂
There are other things that you could add to a list of things to avoid in your story writing but I thought five items was probably enough for this post.
So, the question is. do you agree with what I’ve put on the list and is there anything you would add?