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To hold the reader’s attention your hero must face a crisis or dilemma that demands his immediate and full attention. Overcoming it should be tricky or awkward. Not overcoming it will have serious repercussions. There is a strong likelihood he will fail. And the solution he devices has to be unexpected and ingenious.
In short a short story must have a plot that is strong enough to sustain interest. There must be incidents - a chain of events. There must be a crisis to be resolved. There must be a drama and actions to follow!
A common error is to confuse the basic set-up of the story – the opening crisis or situation – with the plot. The plot is what happens from there – how the events unfold.
A good basic structure looks like this: Introduction – main character faces a worrying conflict/problem/dilemma, Middle – in flashback we learn of the background and events that led up to the conflict and Ending – the conflict is satisfactorily resolved.
Another workable structure is to have a hero who has a goal he desperately needs to achieve – and then put obstacles in his way.
There is No Right or Wrong Way to Plot a Story
- Fiction writers should realize that there is no right or wrong way to plot a story – just different ways. As long as your tale holds the reader’s attention, entertains and delights, then the method you use to achieve this end is as valid and effective as anyone else’s.
- Some fiction writers do all the hard work in their heads, mulling over ideas, developing them, trying out different permutations until they come up with a workable storyline and then rush to write them as swiftly as possible.
- To add the flavor a story should show conflict which is about anything or anyone that upsets the smooth-running of your main character’s life. It can be internal such as a crisis of faith, a fear to be overcome or a problem created by a flaw in the character’s own personality.
- Good drama looks at what happens when the extraordinary occurs. It shows how people feel the unusual and unexpected circumstances. Aim for a nail-biting finish. Keep the readers holding his breath until the last word.
- The more you place your hero in jeopardy the stronger the tension. Tingling anticipation and dread will hold readers glued.
Make Your Stories Light, Positive and Up-beat
Readers want to be taken out of themselves for a few minutes, whisked off to a world where exciting and intriguing things happen. They want their fiction to be different – more Technicolor than real life. They read to escape drudgery and dullness, so always try for setting and plots that break away from the commonplace and mundane.
- The plot is the most important factor in a short story and nothing – but nothing should hold it up or challenge it for the reader’s attention. See also if you can have a circular or return ticket plotline where the story brings you back to the point at which the narrative started.
- Also readers can get enough depression at home with red bills, ringing phones, noisy neighbors, demanding kids and grumpy spouses. They don’t need or want to read a depressing tale, so make your stories light, positive and up-beat.
- Another way of plotting is the shaggy dog story. The writer builds up conflict, piles on suspense and then unexpectedly produces a comic punch line. Always try to deal with topics in a way that leaves the reader feeling uplifted and full of hope.
- Have storylines that show characters taking charge of their own destiny and standing up for themselves. There is no such thing as an original plotline so it’s important that you find a new treatment that will make a storyline crackle with originality.
- Keep the readers guessing. The more choices your hero has, the less predictable the storyline becomes. And having a simple theme to your story is great but don’t set out to give it a moral. You’ll end up a sermon or a piece of propaganda!
Another way of dreaming up plots is to look at proverbs and well known sayings and investigate what associations they spark in your mind.