Sep 26, 2013


notes on writing based on J.S. Bell 'Write Great Fiction - Plot and Structure' - by Lisa Agosti

The fundamental rhythm of the novel is ARM, as in Action, Reaction, More Action.

To keep your readers interested through the middle section of your novel always check and make sure to:

  •  stretch the tension by slowing down the pace of the telling when you get to critical points of the story. The tension can be:
    • physical: the Lead Character is in danger of being killed
    • emotional: the Lead doubts are causing a psychological turmoil
  • raise the stakes by asking yourself periodically: who cares? Why should the readers care about flipping the page to find out more? The stakes can be:
    • plot stakes: this usually means a physical threat
    • character stakes: this usually refer to an emotional or moral trouble
    • social stakes: a country declaring war is a good example of how society can add to the Lead problems (ask Scarlett O'Hara)
Do you want your readers to be hooked all the way through your novel?

Be mean to your Lead Character!
Train yourself  to think of deeper tribulation for your Lead. Get really mean.
Create a list of things that can go wrong for your poor character. 
Then sort the list from the least to the worse degree of trouble.

For example:
A young girl reads sits staring out of the window, longing for the return of her beloved Mr Lead, her lost soul mate lost in trouble. 

What is the worst possible thing that can happen to Mr Lead?

  • Mr Lead is trying to get back to his beloved, who he loves very much, but his evil twin who is also in love with her gets overly jealous and kills his very brother with a gun found in their father house. Mr Lead had never agreed with his family fondness for weapons, and for a good reason.
  • Mr Lead is trying to get back to his beloved, who he loves very much, but he get stuck on a smugglers boat that gets attacked by the pirates. Only survivor of the bunch, he tries to survive the waves for 54 days before reaching a famous shore where the overly welcoming locals turn him into a soft drunken loser.
  • Mr Lead is trying to get back to his beloved, who he loves very much, but he suffers from amnesia after being hit by a deadly virus that has killed half the European population and one third of the rest of the world. The young girl of his dreams goes across the Ocean to find him and be reunited with him once she finds out about his impossibility to remember her, but gets killed by the virus before getting there. Eventually he becomes a renown doctor who finds a cure for the virus but then dies of an heart attack when he's alone in his studio.
  • Mr Lead is not in love with his beloved because he's actually gay and commitmentphobic and was traumatized in his sick lonely childhood as an orphan and he dies alone and she kills herself, and so on and so on.
Can you be more mean? Bring it on! 
After all... tomorrow is another day.