Now you have the reason to start writing a novel. You have thought about it a lot and you are clear about what the plot will be and who its protagonists will be.
But no matter how good the plot and characters are, the novel will fail if you don’t have some good plot ideas that set it apart from other books. If you don’t compose a framework that holds the different parts of the story firmly and beautifully.
The plot is a fundamental aspect in any novel. For this reason, in the Novel Course we dedicate two complete topics to it that teach you to work on it as a whole, but also element by element to make the action progress smoothly and coherently.
You have to start working on it from the beginning. Here are some ideas that will help you start weaving the tapestry of your story.
Seven ideas for writing a novel
1) The protagonist must have a clear motivation
The motivation can be subtle, such as accepting the death of his father; or obvious, like saving the world. In this article we talk about the types of motivation that a character can have.
However, the goal pursued by the protagonist must be clear to the reader. And not only that, it has to be consistent. This consistency is achieved by making the protagonist fully involved in achieving his goal. Keep in mind that if the protagonist doesn’t seem involved, how can you expect the reader to be?
2) The protagonist’s motivation must appear soon
The motivation we talked about in the previous section must be made clear as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the middle of the novel to tell then what the main character’s goal is (in fact, if the main character’s motive doesn’t appear soon enough, it’s unlikely that the reader has accompanied you until the middle of the novel). Keep in mind, though, that the character’s goal may vary throughout the story: in Ian Fleming’s novels, James Bond first seeks to locate the bomb; when he finds her, it is the desire to capture Blofeld that moves him.
The intensity with which the protagonist knows and assumes his goals and the desire to achieve them must be gradual. To outline the plot at the level of objectives, these must be clear to the reader from the beginning. The protagonist must travel a path that leads to the complete understanding of what his goal is. In this way, the reader will want to accompany the character in that discovery as well as in the actions he undertakes to reach it.
4) Continuous movement
Every chapter, and even every scene, must contain a change. The situation can get better for the protagonist or it can get worse, but by the end of the chapter a change in the character’s circumstances must have occurred (otherwise you can delete that chapter). This change does not have to mean a material or physical variation, it can be a psychological or emotional change: the protagonist suddenly understands something, his feelings or his attitude change.
5) No downtime
Precisely because the narrative must move forward, we should not be tempted to fill in the gaps in our story with “straw.” Plot ideas can be limitless, but each line should add something, whether it’s a description, a reflection, or a dialogue. You can also build interesting and vigorous subplots, but make sure you wrap them up last, otherwise they’re just that: filler.
Keep in mind the classic structures of the novel and develop your story according to them.
In Campbell’s famous analysis of the archetypes of history, he usually identifies:
- The Invitation: where the protagonist is asked to take on a challenge;
- The refusal: the protagonist refuses;
- Acceptance: something happens that forces the protagonist to change his mind;
- The adventure: the protagonist tries to meet the challenge;
- Failure: everything seems to go wrong and then
- The triumph: when everything seemed lost, the protagonist achieves success.
Here’s another outline on which you can base your novel.
Most novels have a single protagonist (this is usually the best option for beginning writers). If you want to include more, you have to make sure that you give each of them enough weight in the story, a character and goals of their own and that you don’t abandon any throughout the story. In this post we explain some of the mistakes that are usually made when we multiply the number of protagonists.