Novels with great plots often succeed despite weak writing. Great plots generate movies and TV series, so cash flow follows. Sound great, right? Yet unless your plot is extraordinary or your novel merely a draft for a screenplay, you might want to pay attention to the plot’s delivery. Lots of attention.
These elements can make adequate plots good and good plots great:
One-dimensional characters never live, so their fate never matters much.
ü Do you reveal your characters through action and dialogue, instead of through thoughts (potentially tedious) or commentary (potentially irritating)?
ü Do your characters exhibit both consistency and complexity, as real people do?
~ Narrator/character balance.
Readers need the context only narrators can provide (summary of time, change of scene, exploration of complex motivation) in addition to the immediacy only characters present.
ü Do you make use of both your narrator and characters?
ü Do you put meaty, exciting events in scene using your characters?
ü Does the narrator quickly and attractively deliver the logistics and background that are fun to write but deadly to read?
~ Supportive detail.
In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway made two points about description: “The first is that the writer must deal in sense detail. The second is that these must be details ‘that matter.’” In other words, the best details involve one of the five senses, but that’s not enough. The detail must point toward what you what readers to see, hear, etc.
ü Do your details ever distract from the story?
ü Are all your details both concrete and significant?
ü Do you amass catalogues of details because you haven’t found the one you need?
Memorable novels offer something beyond familiar characters enacting a familiar plot, however competently that’s executed.
ü Does your novel encourage readers to reach their own conclusions?
ü Do you intertwine theme with plot?
ü Does your story allude to concepts and conditions larger than itself?
Our world is an efficient and hasty one. Many readers don’t care about graceful sentences, and many writers feel that polishing sentences wastes time. Yet writers remain responsible for their writing.
ü Do you want to write swiftly or beautifully?
ü Wouldn’t you love readers exclaiming, “Wow—that’s gorgeous”?
Tip: if you polish both plot and delivery, you could earn both Pulitzer and film option.