Story Elements Series: Got Plot?

by Hazel Buys

You’ve come up with a great plot, one you know will keep the reader’s interest. It will surprise, fascinate, scare, amuse and even educate the reader. A real winner!

But is it logical? Developing a plot that is rich with twists and turns and still makes sense from beginning to end is one of the most difficult tasks a writer faces. It’s easy to put in a plot twist and never get it turned back to the original problem you devised for your protagonist.

Ask yourself, does the solution presented at the end of the story match the problem set up at the beginning? One way to test this principle is to state your premise and your conclusion in a sentence or two. For example, you want to write a story about Rover, a puppy. At the start of this story, Rover, more than anything in the world, wants a home where there is a little boy to play with. But there are no little boys where he lives. The conclusion is that at the end of the story, Rover finds a home with a little boy who, more than anything else in the world, wanted a puppy to play with.

Compare your statements with your story. If you’ve written a story that concludes with Rover finding a home on a farm where he learns to herd sheep, that’s a great outcome. But it doesn’t match the problem you set up. If Rover is taken in by a family with three little girls who love him and give him lots of attention, that’s also a great ending. But you are still missing your mark.

Some mis-matches are obvious, like the ones I outlined above, but many are subtle and easy to overlook. And even the little misses make a difference. Your story will seem off kilter and, although they may not be able to tell you why, readers will not enjoy it.

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