I’ve finished my 90,000-word novel Kokoweef. So, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a book proposal. The hard part of writing begins soon. Pitching to agents and editors.
Now that your nest is empty, you too may have dusted off that old dream of becoming a world-class novelist. But, you ask, where do I begin? With a plot and characters. These basic elements create the narrative, which consists of a beginning intent, a middle that contains a series of actions and reversals, and an end that is the logical outcome.
Let’s look at plot today. Plot isn’t the same as story. The story consists of a chronology of events. For example: She got up, grabbed some coffee, and caught the bus to work. This is all action, so it is story. Plot is the story, plus it answers the question why by using a pattern of actions and reactions. Example: Exhausted from cleaning offices all night, she overslept. She grabbed some coffee so the children could have the last of the cereal then rushed past her broken-down car to catch the bus to work. The story tells us about a woman that is late for work. Plot is revealed as we see a single mom struggling to provide for her family.
Basically, there are only two types of plots, either ones that address the physical or ones that address the mind. Physical plots are action driven and usually don’t answer any great moral or intellectual questions. They include adventure, mystery, thriller, western, sci fi. Those that address the mind are character driven. They explain ideas, human nature, relationships, beliefs, attitudes, and the search for meaning.
What fuels plot is tension. Tension in turn is created by opposition. As opposition grows, the tension grows until the narrative reaches a climax where there is some change to the main character.
Deciding on your plot is the first step in writing your novel. We’ll explore character next time.—Quinn