How to Start a Novel Plot – 5 Facts that Make a Difference If someone asked you how to start a novel plot, or what is plot, what would your answer be? You might say that plot is everything that happens in a story and they could begin by writing all those events down. And your answer would be correct to a certain extent. However, in this section of the elements of novel writing, we are going to look at a deeper meaning of a novel’s plot and how novelists use it to get a story going and keep it going. What is Plot? If you are learning how to start a novel, the first thing to understand is that a story must have a plot. If it doesn’t have a plot, you might just have a long boring essay, and not many readers. Plot includes all of these elements: 1. Cause and Effect – plot is the thing that characters do, think, feel, or say that makes a difference to what comes afterward. It is every significant event or conflict in a story that results in significant consequences – events and consequences that your character cares about passionately. If this happens, that will happen. Think of tossing a stone into a pool of water and seeing the ripples develop – tossing the stone caused the effect of ripples. (Perhaps it was a 5- carat diamond that you cared passionately about.) 2. Action/Reaction – thoughts and emotions cross the line into plot when they are acted upon, causing a reaction. You can think about dying your hair purple, but if you don’t do it, nothing happens. If you think about dying your hair purple and actually do it, things could happen: your mother might be very upset with you, your peers might love you or laugh at you, and it’s going to look frighteningly weird when you grow out your blonde hair. 3. Something at Stake – for a reader to care about your story there has to be something at stake – something of value to be gained or something of value to be lost. 4. Forces to Reckon With – a villain, set of circumstances, opponent, or fear of doing something that tries to keep the protagonist from reaching their goal or hanging on to that which is so important to them. 5. Scenes – plot depends on passions and how characters struggle to fulfill them, as shown (not told) through the scenes of your novel; one scene building upon another, from beginning to end, all interrelated to the story. How to Start a Novel Plot Description in a Few Words You should be able to write your novel’s overall plot description in just a few sentences. The best way I can show you this is by example. This description for the novel (and movie) Jaws is quite good: The chief of police of a New England community, while terrified of the sea, sets out to defeat a gigantic killer shark”. In that one statement, we have the lead character’s problem, (which is further complicated by his fears), the conflict, and a problem to solve. Try to write the description of your plot using these same elements. How to Start a Novel Plot thru Scenes If you’ve been writing for any length of time, like even two minutes, you’ve heard the most often repeated writing advice ever: Show, Don’t Tell. So what exactly does this means for fiction writers? Show means creating scenes. To write scenes we must show something happening, people talking, doing, or an event going on that is directly related to the rest of the story. A novel is a sequence of scenes that build on each other from the beginning of the story to the end of the story. Scenes reflect attitudes, that turn into motives, that meet resistance, creating conflict, and lead to consequences – that’s also plot. A scene may convey many things: attitudes, moods, settings, anticipation of what’s to come, even a reflection of what’s past, but first and foremost, every scene must do two things: 1. Advance the plot by showing how one thing, motive, action leads to consequences; show what your story is about. 2. Demonstrate the characters, i.e., help readers understand your character, his primary and complex traits, emotions, and motives, etc. better. When you’ve finished your novel, you should be able to describe for yourself (perhaps by writing a novel outline) what each scene does for the story, i.e., how did it develop the characters, what action did it show that led toward consequences. You can finish reading this article on our website about how to start a novel.
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