Thursday, May 24, 2018

How To Write A Novel Readers Love - The List

Dear friend,

Kudos to you for deftly creating a desperate inner struggle between your hero’s greatest goal and his longstanding misbelief. Using the knowledge you gained from this exercise, you also created inner struggles for your other major characters

Now it time to think about the basic story line for your novel. To do this, you need to understand in great detail the correct definition of story.

Here again is Lisa Cron’s definition of the word “story”:

A story is how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal, and how he or she changes internally as a result.

Let’s separate the important parts of this definition.

“What happens” refers to the events of the story that construct your plot. In effect, “what happens” is the plot.

“Someone” refers to your protagonist, hero or heroine.

“Pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal” refers to the story question. Another way to think of it is to ask the question, “Will the protagonist achieve her deceptively difficult goal?”

“How he or she changes internally as a result” refers to the process of your protagonist’s transformation of heart and mind throughout the story. First, she is blind to her longstanding misbelief. After a while, she questions it. Then, she struggles with it. When she can't stand her misbelief any longer, she confronts it. Finally, she overcomes the misbelief that's been wrecking her life for so long.

The longstanding misbelief no longer has a hold on your protagonist. She's free to achieve her greatest goal as a result of defeating her misbelief.

The internal change your protagonist experiences is what readers come to your story for. They want to experience that internal change with her.

Your reader wants to be the hero.
Your reader wants to be the heroine.
Your reader wants to know how his or her internal change feels.

Your reader wants to change with the protagonist.

Now, what you need to figure out is the internal change your heroine will undergo. And how, exactly she will make that necessary change. Or, should I say, how the story’s events, otherwise known as the plot, will force her to change.

In my young adult novel, From Bad Girl To Worse, I reviewed my notes on all of the important things about my young heroine, Sandra Porter. I reviewed things like her greatest goal, her longstanding misbelief, and who she was on the day before the story began.

I used this information to construct a punch list of how I envisioned the story’s events playing out. Why did I do this? Because I wanted to have a good idea of which plot points would force poor little Sandra to change inside, turn by turn.

I called this list the basic story flow list. It started with…

  • Sandra looks at her sad home life before she heads out the door for school.
  • Sandra bumps into her aunt--the aunt who doesn’t even talk to her--purposely just to get her to say something. Anything. Sandra’s heart breaks when her aunt still refuses to respond.
  • Before Sandra leaves the house, she grabs a picture off of her bedroom dresser. In the picture, she and her mother are embracing each other. They are smiling. She places the picture beside her catatonic mother, hoping that her mother will look at it, snap out of her psychotic trance, and return to normal.
  • Sandra arrives at school and meets up with her friend, Lexie.

This basic story flow list goes on and on from the first event in the story to the last. Here’s the final event in the list.

  • Sandra takes hold of the jail cell door bars with both hands. She smiles because she feels like she’s achieved something far greater than having a true friend, even though she’s alone once again, as she was in the beginning of the story. Sandra has found her sense of self-respect.

As you review your basic story flow list, you should be able to get a handle on what your story might look like once you review the important things (goal, misbelief, snapshot of “before”). These important things should help you build a logical story flow. Once you complete your list, you'll be ready to move onto the next phase--identifying how the events in your list will become your novel’s plot points.

In my next letter to you, I'll show you how to structure your story in a format that readers love. And it’s the same structure that all the major blockbuster movies are built upon.

Onward to success,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse
and The Dangerous Way Home

P. S. – The whole purpose of your novel’s plot is to force your protagonist to confront and overcome her longstanding misbelief, and gain the strength and courage to pursue her greatest goal unhindered by fear.

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