EM Forster wrote that a story ‘can only have one merit: that of making the audience want to know what happens next.
‘A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality – “The king died and then the queen died” is a story.’ But ‘“the king died and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it.’
Always remember that plot often grows from character. If you have a strong central character, with virtues and flaws, then some of the story will follow naturally.
What would your character do in a certain situation? If things get bad, would he/she go to the pub? To the gym? To a former lover?
And what will that person say? And how do they speak? With an accent? A lisp?
Your main character, a real flesh-and-blood person, is also in a position of conflict – with themselves, with members of their family, their past, or with some external problem.
A murder to solve, a murderer stalking them, and so on. The book is about resolving that conflict in a way that seems real.
And if you’re having trouble writing a particular passage, try to imagine it as a scene in a film. Your character walks into a room. What do you as a viewer need to know about that room? The pictures on the wall? The colour of the carpet? How does he or she enter that room? Are they happy to be there? Hesitant?
By imagining that scene as a film, you will instinctively concentrate on writing what is important, and filtering out the rest. And if your protagonist falls into conversation, you’ll be better able to write dialogue that feels real.
They’re intended to give you the confidence and skills to understand what makes great writing.
It could be the start of a whole new journey, however many words it takes.
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