Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to Develop a Novel's Plot

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by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

There are any number of required elements one must infuse into their novel to make it successful. However, few NOVELS will succeed if the authors does not know how to develop a novel's PLOT.

Plot is defined in many ways, but for the sake of this article, I'll say plot is those sequential events that transpire within your novel. You know what I mean. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, girl tells boy they need a break, boy meets some young chippy at the copy store for a one-nighter and girl lords it over boy's head forever. (Sound familiar?)

So, how might one develop a novel's plot?

Allow me to present a formula, if you will, that may help with this task. If you follow the steps outlined here, you'll end up with a story, every time. Let's get started.

1. Begin with the proverbial hook. Make it so exciting they want to read more.

2. Show your main character's normal life. What is it he's about to lose?

3. Introduce your villain, even if he's not identified as such.

4. Introduce your third wheel and other lesser characters.

5. Introduce the hero's problem or desire. He wants something. What is it?

6. Show how the villain plans to thwart your hero. There's a reason they call him the villain.

7. Show your hero's flaws. What is it about him that will keep him from his goal?

8. Give your hero an irresistible shove and move him away from his normal life to face the required challenges that keep him from his want.

9. Get your hero moving on the path toward his goal.

10. Toss in a few unexpected obstacles or characters who try to deter him from his goal.

11. Have your hero fail in his attempts to move forward. He must realize he cannot reach his goal without assistance.

12. Have your protagonist meet any number or sort of allies and teachers. They give him the tools, whether physical, mental or emotional, to accomplish his goal.

13. It may be time to toss in some comic relief.

14. Your hero should progress toward his goal now that he's attained allies and experience.

15. Uh-oh! Your hero faces another terrible ordeal which he is unable to overcome.

16. More new skills are learned so the hero can move forward on his quest. This may mean new allies or old one who help in new ways.

17. Now, your protagonist must move forward on his own. In effect, his allies can help no more.

18. More comic relief? Maybe, maybe not.

19. Your hero comes to the conclusion he is unable to make his desires a reality. He feels he has failed.

20. But wait! There's more! Something or someone appears and helps your hero get back on track.

21. Your hero again moves forward on his quest.

22. The Big Bad Wolf appears in all his evil glory. Even though he'd been introduced earlier, his true wickedness now comes to light.

23. The hero is defeated, but not killed, by the Big Bad Wolf.

24. Some new and necessary tool or strength is found by your hero.

25. Your hero realizes he must lose something of value if he is to defeat his antagonist. Will he lose the girl if he continues on his quest?

26. Your hero grows in wisdom and realized what is important and what is not.

27. With this evolution, your hero determines to get back into the game.

28. Your hero faces the Big Bad Wolf once more and this time defeats the villain. 

29. But wait! There's still more! The hero doesn't realize it, but the villain is not really dead and the bad guy rises to attack once more.

30. The good guy finally kills the evil doer.

31. Everyone goes home and we find out who gets the girl, the jewels, the weapons, the knowledge or whatever.

32. Everyone lives happily ever after. Ah, except the villain, of course.

Keep in mind this outline is universal in nature. The formula works regardless the genre of your novel.

Must you follow this outline in perfect sequence? Not at all. You can mix up the order and even delete a couple steps if it works for you novel.

The secret, of course, is to create a scene from each of these points. If you do, you've got yourself a general storyline.

What questions to you have as to how to develop a novel's plot?

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"


  1. This is a wonderful post to help layout your plot. The sequence here is crucial for advancing your story. You always provide sound advice on the craft of writing! May we link you for our blog's Friday round-up?

    Thanks so much!

  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJune 15, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    You may, Marissa. I appreciate you doing so.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Tomorrow's post is about symbolism in fiction.