tagged with: plot

file5791287577951 (2)Now that the elections are over, we can go back to what we enjoy the most – reading. The days are shorter, the nights are longer and cooler, just right to snuggle up with a good book.

But before you reach for that book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand, stop and think for a moment. What do you look for in a good book? What makes you pick up the book in the first place? I would guess the first thing would be the cover, but you don’t just want to admire the cover, you want to read what is between the covers.

So what tickles your fancy? Is it the plot, the characters, or the beautiful prose? For me, I would say all three, and if you can place all of that in a breathtaking setting, you have a fan for life.

Notice I didn’t mention genre, even though there are certain types I will not read. Horror, vampire and detective novels with lots of blood and gore turn me off. As does erotica.

There was a time when I would have included sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian novels in the list. Then one of my friends decided to venture into worlds unknown and wrote her first sci-fi novel, Story In The Stars, and I was hooked. Then along came Hunger Games and I was drawn in, hook, line, and sinker.

So what was it about these two books in particular that kept me turning the pages?
1. Plot – this has to be compelling enough to keep me reading. While I love descriptive passages, they shouldn’t be so long that they draw me out of the story. Also, even though it is fiction, the plot should be believable.
2. Characters – I must fall in love with them. I must understand their motive and be able to defend them even when they slip up, as real people sometimes do.
3. Prose – Think of it as the special ingredients you add to a meal to make it mouthwatering and appetizing. Every morsel you bite should stimulate your taste buds for more. So it is with your writing. If it is flat, with grammatical errors, typos, lacking flavor, then it will not appeal to your reader no matter how great the story line is.

What kinds of books do you like? What is on your bookshelf or in your kindle right now? If you are looking for a book with a compelling plot, lovable characters, and flavorful prose, pick up a copy of Coming Out of Egypt, now available for just .99c on kindle. Or you can download it for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Last year I decided to unofficially participate in NaNoWriMo, not because I wanted to write my novel in a month, but because I hoped to feed off the energy and motivation generated among writers during this month. There are live events near where I live, and I hope to attend at least one. This year my novel is almost complete. I’d hoped to have it completed by now, the first draft, that is, but my plot took an unexpected twist and I’m really enjoying it. So far, I have topped 102, 000 words, way more than I originally intended. However, I know I’ll be doing some slashing in the earlier chapters once I begin to edit. Anything that doesn’t advance the plot has to go. By the time I’m done, I expect to be under 100K.

So what about you? What does your NaNoWriMo look like? Are you attending any live events? What goal(s) have you set for yourself? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re up to.


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My T in the A – Z challenge is for Theme. I remember when my literature teacher in high school asked us to find the theme of a story we were studying, a collective sigh went up in the room like if a gas line had burst. Ask us to summarize the plot, we could do that, describe the characters, that was easy, but find the theme? We could sooner find the Holy Grail.

Nowadays, we hear the word “theme” used a lot. There are theme parks, theme parties, theme restaurants. What the designers have done is to build the setting or occasion around a central point that no one can miss. The theme of your novel is not much different. It is that common thread that runs through your plot, and impacts your characterization and sometimes even your setting. It is a necessary element of the literary novel.

As an aspiring novelist, you may not consciously set out to create a theme, but if your story flows logically, you will have a theme. Sometimes a theme could be a place, a time period or a metaphor that adds depth to the story. Some common themes used in novels are: loss of innocence, coming of age, losing hope, pride, danges of materialism, good versus evil, lost love and many others. The next time you read a novel, try to identify the theme. If you have written a novel, what is its theme?

When you set about the daunting task of writing a novel, your main task is to plot it in such a way that people will want to read it. And by plotting I mean writing a series of events from beginning to end in a logical manner. In order to do this you may use the first tried and true method, which is,

Sit and write, stand and write, kneel and write, whichever works best for you. And you begin your novel, It was a dark and stormy night. This didn’t work for Snoopy and it might not work for you either. So how do you plot your novel? Here are some plotting methods I’ve come across in books.

1. Write down some background information. This may include notes about your characters and what makes them tick. Next, you put your characters in a place or several places, which will be your setting, then you give your main character a problem. How he/she solves (or does not solve) that problem will be your plot.

2. Using an outline. Some authors swear by this. You start with a problem for your main character, then you write a chapter outline of the plot. This is okay, but I have found that I can never stick to an outline. My characters tend to pull me away from it in more interesting avenues, which I can’t resist.

3. Use 3 x 5 cards. If you can still find these in your office supply store, they might be more helpful than the outline. Here’s why. After you have written your plot points on the cards, you can always move them around to see where they fit best, or discard those that do not work. Maybe it’s better if Sally tells Johnny she is divorced after they have gone on their first date instead of before. So you move that card to where you want the event to occur.

4. Draw a bell curve or a graph. Either of these will give you a visual representation of where the climax of your story comes. To do this, use the points you plotted on 3 x 5 cards or in the outline. Again, I find the cards are easier to play around with. Draw your curve and plot the salient points on your curve in the order in which they appear. Hopefully, the high point of your novel or the climax will fall in, or near, the middle of the curve. If it doesn’t, you may have to do some restructuring. The reason for this is, if the climax comes too early, the resolution tends to drag and the reader may lose interest. If it comes too late, the resolution may seem rushed and the reader may feel cheated.

The important thing to remember is, there is no hard and fast rule for writing or plotting your novel. You may ignore everything that was said here and simply sit at your computer like Snoopy and type. However, if you think you need a little bit of planning before you delve into the literary waters, then play with some of the methods above. If you find one, or a combination, that works for you, go for it.

Still on the A – Z challenge, the letter for today is O for occupation. If you are a fiction writer, your protagonist will most likely have a job. I’ve never met one who didn’t. However, the job you select for your character(s) should have some bearing on your plot. Think of the detective stories you’ve enjoyed and the way the author used the character’s occupation to drive the plot. This also adds depth to your story and creates a more memorable character.

Dan Brown’s protagonist Robert Langdon, whose job as a Harvard symbologist lands him some hair-raising assignments, make Dan Brown’s books page turners. And page turners sell. Choose your character’s occupation with this in mind and you may achieve the same result.

L is for literary on my A – Z blog challenge. If you have been querying agents or publishers for some time, you would no doubt have come across the term “literary novel” or “literary mainstream fiction.” I remember the first time I saw it I was confused, and many years later I’m still confused, as apparently are the many people who have attempted to define the term.

The most common definition I’ve come across is, you can’t define it, but you’ll know when you see it. Very helpful, isn’t it? (more…)