Friday, April 20, 2012

Editing Series - Plot

Today we're going to talk about plot.  I intentionally placed the plot discussion after we had already covered character for two reasons.  First, the books I write (and the books I like to read) are heavily character-driven.  Even if the plot has fantastic twists and turns, I need to care about the characters to care about the plot.  And second, as you can see from yesterday's post, often strengthening the ties between your characters requires adjusting your plot. 

Let's talk about plot.  This is what moves your story forward.  This is the interesting "stuff" that happens in your story.  Plot keeps your readers turning the pages. 

I want to be honest up front.  I struggle with plot.  Maybe it's because I don't outline before I write.  Maybe it's because I can envision my characters so clearly, but figuring out what happens to them--that's a struggle for me. 

I worked a lot on strengthening my plot during this revision.  There were three main things I did that really helped tighten the plot, but I'm only going to get to two today.  I want to give some examples of the third thing I did and doing so would make this an incredibly loooong post, so I'll talk about Plot Technique Number Three on Monday. 

First (and the thing that was the most work) was that on my editor's suggestion, I cut most of the back story.  I have three POV characters and one of those character's POV was all backstory.  I completely cut that POV which made me restructure the entire novel. 

Why did my editor suggest cutting the backstory?  Simple, it wasn't moving the plot forward.  My readers didn't need to know every little thing about how my characters ended up in their current situation.  My readers just needed to know what they were going to do about their current situation.  Make sense?  The back story was slowing everything down.  I did keep a few parts, but instead of presenting them as full chapters in one character's POV, I wove them into the story as flashbacks.

The next thing I did was increase my antagonist's presence in the novel.  Before this rewrite, he was always hovering around the edges of things, but he didn't get truly scary until the very end.  I took his part and blew it up into something much bigger.  Which meant my other characters had to react.  All of this created a lot of action; whereas before my characters were sitting about and thinking a lot.  (A Big No No.  Pontificating = Boring.)

Giving my antagonist a bigger role in the story let me put my other characters in dangerous/uncomfortable situations.  People in such situations do strange things which often leads to other predicaments.  In addition, simply seeing more of the antagonist increases the tension in the story.  Remember antagonist = conflict. 

I think that's long enough for today.  I'll go over the third point on Monday because I think it's both the hardest and most important thing I did to strengthen my plot. 

Until Monday, have a fantastic weekend!


  1. This really makes me feel a bit better, as my antagonist is certainly getting bigger and badder during my revisions.

    I agree that plot is important, because it reveals to us who the characters are in the moment. The way they react and exist, tells us a lot of who they are.

  2. I'm glad you're feeling better. It was hard to increase my antagonist's role, but it made a huge difference.

    And you're exactly right! It's the same as in life. You find out what you're made of in the tough moments.