Once again, I must admit I didn’t write the basic points to this blog. I did, however write the details under each point. This blog is credited to author Will Lavender, who I met at the 2012 Killer Nashville conference. He presented this seminar on plot fundamentals.
I enjoyed this seminar even though I’m a published author. I think every author, whether you are twenty books into your career or are still looking for that first publishing contract can learn from other authors. We all need to keep up with practicing the craft of writing. So I took this seminar because I wanted to see what this man had to say about plotting. I discovered that I was already following some of the points and needed to brush up on others.
- Keep it Simple. Don’t confuse your audience with intricate complex plots.
Especially if the plot includes a lot of scientific jargon. I thought the Dan Brown books were pretty intricate, but the adventure kept me interested. Where I lose focus is if there are too many characters, too many scene changes, too much happening all at once, or if the story is so convoluted nothing makes sense
- Keep the stakes high. End of the world, kidnap victim going to die, building to be blown up, etc.
Most of your thrillers have this. Ludlum books are loaded with high stakes. However, the stakes don’t have to be end of the world. A serial killer about to take that all important victim is enough to make a good plot.
- Use scene breaks to set pacing. Using cliffhangers or revelations at the end of chapters/scenes.
Matthew Reilly never lets you off the hook. His books are a race to the end with nary a time to breathe. Remember the roller coaster effect. Bring ’em up, then let them down. I remember a report about Hitchcock’s movie The Birds. In the original film, he kept his audience up and the test group left the theater feeling edgy. So he changed the script to ease the viewers back down.
- Be aware of linear movement in plot. Avoid a lot of info dumping or moving forward to a certain point, then backtracking by using flashbacks or historical data.
This pertains to background information. Please, please do not ramble on for two or three pages about a character point that is relevant to a small piece of actions that is happening in the present.
Although I enjoy Stephen king, his one major fault, in my view is he puts waaaaaaay too much background information in many of his stories. So much so, I stop enjoying them because I’ve forgotten the plot.
- Keep a good balance between exterior (action) vs. interior (character reflections
Use a combination of these to show time passage, either to speed up or slow down time. Don’t have so much action, readers lose sight of the character involved, but don’t stay too long in the character’s head you forget the truck about to mow him down.
Next week, in part 2, I continue with Mr. Lavender’s seminar presentation where he discusses Plotting the Puzzling Thriller.