Monday, April 23, 2012

Editing Series--Plot Part Two

On Friday, I talked about things you can do to strengthen your plot.  Today, I'm going to wrap up the plot discussion with the biggest thing I did to make my plot more interesting. 

So what did I do?  Simple.  I adopted a new motto: Make it More.  More exciting.  More interesting.  More dramatic.  I looked at each scene I had, and I tried to find ways to Make it More.  It seems simple, but it's really difficult.  When writing fiction you have to balance the need to make things believable with the need to make things interesting.  Finding the right balance is a delicate thing.

Let me give you an example from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  Spoiler alert.  If you're the one person in the universe who hasn't watched The Empire Strikes Back, go watch it before you read the rest of this post. 

Now that we're all on the same page, let's talk Star Wars.  When George Lucas wrote the story of young Jedi Luke Skywalker (okay--I know it's really Darth Vader's story, but just go with me here) he could have kept the story simple.  Luke wants to be a Jedi and fight bad guys, namely chief bad guy Darth Vader.  That could have been good enough.  Good versus Evil is a classic plot.  Vader could have been any random Joe seduced by the dark side. 

Instead, Lucas chose to Make it More.  He looked at his story and said, How can I really blow this out?  What's more interesting?  Having Luke battle someone he doesn't know?  Or having Luke battle his own father?  By making that one small decision, Lucas took his plot from ordinary, to extra-ordinary.  He elevated his story from a simple Good versus Evil to an infinitely more complicated (and interesting) family struggle complete with all the internal and external angst that waging a war against your own father creates. 

One decision.  Hugely different outcome.  That's what you need to do with your plot.  Look at the decisions you've made and see if there's a way to Make it More.  See if there's something you can change that will add an extra layer of complications to your story.  I guarantee that your story will be much better for it.

Oh, and one last thing.  Notice that Lucas' plot twist sprang from his characters.  Plot is not something separate from our characters.  Instead it is entangled with our characters.  It surrounds your characters and penetrates them.  It's what binds your story together...(cue the music here.)


  1. I worry about being too big. After all, my characters are adults. So with that, there comes some expectation of acting like one.

    This means I try to keep things vaguely in the realm of possibilities (since I don't have the luxury of space opera being my genre).

    That said, I agree with making things big. We need them that way as readers, because, otherwise, we get bored!

    If there is a slowdown in action, the reader needs to feel there is going to be a nice pay off. So making things big is a great way to do that.

  2. In my first draft, I did exactly the same thing. I write magical realism, but it's still grounded in this world so I wanted my characters to be believable.

    Unfortunately for me, I translated believable into boring! Agh!

    What I did in this second draft is amp it up a bit. I tried to look at my plot choices and see if there wasn't anything I could make a little bigger. For example, instead of the bad guy just stalking his victim, maybe he trashes their house.

  3. Im a firm believer also in beating your main character to a pulp. Mine has been cut, shot, beaten, knocked out, kidnapped, attacked by rabid dogs, almost burned at a stake and left wandering barefoot and burned in the desert in mexico...and Im not done with him yet lol

  4. You've got to be mean to them! Put them through the wringer. That's what makes good fiction!