TEN WAYS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR PLOT
by Linda Cowgill
Ten things to think about to test the strength of
- Develop a clear conflict in the action of your
story. Identify the forces of opposition.
- Your protagonist is an emotional being. Know where
your character stands emotionally at the start of the story so that
s/he can be challenged emotionally early on. This helps in developing
the character's arc.
- Know what your protagonist wants, why s/he wants
it, and what s/he needs. The more specific the character's want, the
stronger the plot potential.
- Examine the emotional consequences to the conflict
your characters face. Determine which ones define your theme and engage
the audience's emotions.
- Remember: Conflict doesn't come exclusively from
the antagonist. Use other obstacles and complications to reveal
- In dealing with the various problems (the
conflicts), the hero must experience setbacks as well as successes to
create tension. You define character as much through failure as through
success. How the hero copes with these outcomes gives insight and
meaning to character and story.
- Characters are defined by the choices they make.
Every story is really a series of increasingly difficult and dangerous
choices that simultaneously carry your plot and illustrate your
- Plots need to be based on action and reactions,
cause and effect, to lead the audience from point to point. Use cause
and effect plotting to make sure each scene leads believably to the
- Conflict must escalate. All your characters have
wants and needs, differing agendas, and these raise the level of
conflict as your story progresses.
- Audiences need surprise. The best surprises are
the reversal and the reveal. Both must be plotted for. Reversals work
best when the audience has been set up for one result and get the
opposite. Reveals work best when the revelation has been cleverly
foreshadowed early, but not given away.
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