Daily Writing Tip 48 of 100, First Aid for Plots

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – First Aid for Plots

Source – How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

  1. Remember that plot is character in predicament.
  2. The protagonist should be the initiator of the action rather than the victim of it, active rather than passive.
  3. Is there a use for a Ticking Clock?
  4. Give the protagonist a compulsion. Consider the compulsions in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy wants to get home to Kansas, the Tin Woodsman wants a heart, the Scarecrow a brain, the Wicked Witch the ruby slipper.
  5. Consider unities and contractual obligations. If the novel begins in Santa Ana, California, maybe it should end in Santa Ana. If Ralph appears on page 10, maybe he should reappear before the end of the novel. If there is a bear trap hung on the wall in the first chapter, maybe it should be actuated in the last.
  6. What is at stake?
  7. Is the ending inevitable yet surprising?

Inevitable yet surprising? – I think that only a writer can fully understand how this is possible… not only possible, but common and maybe even necessary. Comprehending subtle realities like that makes all the work and frustration worthwhile.