In this multi-post series, you’ll discover techniques and technology to help you self-edit. Part 3 offers questions to uncover plot problems and opportunities.
Plot (Part 3): Thread of Events
A novel’s main plot is a thread of events that form the narrative of what occurs with the story.
- Characters are the who
- Plot is the what
- Theme is the why
- Structure is the how
Readers expect stories to unfold based on their pre-established expectations gained over a lifetime of reading books and watching films. The plot follows a logical series of events sequenced within the Global Story Beats.
Link Plot, Character, and Theme
- Do events take place early that create tension, causing readers to engage as concerns increase for the lead’s well-being?
- Do the events create a story problem that captures readers’ attention?
- Does something dramatic happen to the lead character within the novel’s first page or two?
- Do the emotion-laced events in the early scenes encourage readers to bond with the lead character, experiencing her emotions?
- Are the stakes becoming clear to both the lead character and readers?
- Do the lead’s efforts focus on solving one escalating problem she can’t avoid and balance the mixture of narrative and action?
- Does the lead’s pursuit of a difficult goal create conflicts and tension?
- Is it clear who is the main character?
- Will readers relate to this character despite her flaws?
- Is the lead pursuing a difficult goal, one that if achieved, will solve the story’s central problem?
- Is it clear who (or what) opposes the lead’s efforts to resolve the story problem, and what will happen if unsuccessful?
- What does the lead character need to hear, but she ignores trusted friend or mentor?
- Do the challenges and conflicts of pursuing lead’s goal convey the theme meaning and emotions?
- Do the lead’s choices represent one or more dilemmas, ever increasing the story’s tension?
- Does the lead’s inner issue hinder solving the story problem?
- Does the lead resist the need to change, but as the story progresses, finally sees things differently?
- Will readers learn something from the lead’s struggle that helps them to deal with real-life issues?
- At the end of the story, does the success or failure of solving the story problem highlight how the lead has changed?
- Does the lead’s backstory trickle out over multiple pages instead of an information-dump?
- Do the scenes show what the lead character needs to know about self?
- Do the scenes allow the characters to show rather than tell the story?
- Do the stakes show the lead faces risks that could negatively influence her physical, professional, and psychological well-being?