Plot is your most important aspect in a novel. Why? Well, your plot will define everything. It will define how your characters turn out to be, what their actions are, and it will even drive your setting and every other aspect you pump into the novel.
Plot has become an element of great interest recently, and I thought it was high time that I discussed it as well.
Many times, when a person doesn’t like a novel, it is either because the characters are too flat (the reader doesn’t care about them), or the story is too slow. Well, one major way to fix these issues is to re-examine your plot. Whether you outline your plot in the beginning or write as you go along, you must do one thing upon finishing your manuscript – go back through your novel and write down what the plot is, from beginning to end, and how the events shape your characters. Are some of your characters too flat? Then perhaps you didn’t provide those characters with enough plot in terms of personal events. Much like humans, characters are a product of what they have been through. If you characters haven’t gone through any struggles or notable events, they will be forgettable and your reader most likely won’t care about them. To better assess your manuscript and plot, I have provided you with a checklist of things to look for:
1) Are there any plot holes? Are any of your characters unaffected by events in your plot that should have changed them?
2) Are there any subplots in your manuscript? Would subplots make the manuscript better?
3) Read your plot backwards. Do the events at the end make sense based on the events in the beginning of the manuscript?
For example, if one of your characters had a perfect childhood, and ended up a criminal, would that make sense? Do you have any form of mental incapacities to explain for their criminality? But more importantly, will your reader believe you if your character has no scars, but has gone down a dark road? By examining your characters, you need to examine their experiences, and add in extra events if necessary.
Think of plot as the backbone of your novel. Without a well-executed plot, anything else you put into your writing won’t matter. You also need to make sure that your plot is original and of your original ideas. By going back through your manuscript, outlining it and reading it backwards, you will be able to determine if there are any holes you can fill, ideas you can change, as well as making sure that you retain continuity. Many times authors mix up details in their writing, which can produce a broken plot. In all circumstances, the author must know more information than the reader, and you don’t want your reader to catch your mistakes.
But most of all, write and write and write. It isn’t important to examine your plot before you write the manuscript, but make sure to outline it once you are finished to make that novel shine. Your plot is your tool, and your plot will be what your readers fall in love with. Know who you are writing for, and work your plot to match that audience.