The Truth About Plot

If you’ve been reading my posts you know I struggle with plot. Why I struggle so much is a mystery to me; I’ve read a zillion books, all of which have plots. You’d think I’d know enough by now.

But at last I’ve realized that there is always a common thread when I struggle with plot, and it’s that I’ve thought about action as separate from character. When I start to think about plot as something that happens, rather than as something the characters do, then I get into trouble. The action flows, but the story flounders. For example, in the story I’m working on now, I want my main character to find out another character is breaking the law. How will he find out? For a while I thought the police might turn up asking questions, but that seemed to Deus Ex Machina. Then I thought I’d have the law breaker break the law in front of my main character, but that seemed contrived, as well as too convenient to be believable. I wrote and rewrote that section of the book a dozen times, and then I realized I was asking the wrong question. I was asking what was going to happen, when I should have been asking what is my main character going to do? Now I have brought the action back to my main character, so the plot revolves around his needs, his desires, his thoughts and his actions, not those of another person. So far it’s working.

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