Writer Tips Advice Blog 1 Oct 21 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings. In the last Reader and Writer Tips Advice Blog, we went over characterization and character. For this issue of the blog, I will take up another tip: plot development.
As you no doubt know by now, we start off these discussions with a definition of terms as Socrates and Voltaire advised. Okay, lets define plot. If we define it well, there will be little left to say about the subject. According to my Websters New World dictionary, definition 4, a plot is “the plan of action of a play, novel, poem, short story, etc.”
Notice that it is a plan of action. Plan is a scheme for making, doing, or arranging something. Action is the doing of something. So plan of action would a scheme for the doing and arranging the action of something ‒ and for our purpose add in ‒ in a novel or short story. Thus, a plot is a scheme for the doing and arranging of something in a novel or short story.
The only remaining definition we need is for development. Again, we use my Websters. Development is to make a theme or plot known gradually. Well, we are finally at the cusp: plot development would reduce to making a scheme for the doing and arranging of something known gradually.
This leads to the key fundamental of plot development: the slow reveal. Let’s get absurd to make our point. Let’s say your novel is 350 pages long and you reveal plot climax on the first page. I don’t have to wrap the present in ugly paper for us to know that is ridiculous.
Next though not as important is the slow reveal precludes exposing all in the last paragraph of the short story or novel. The slow reveal should occur throughout the story, a little here and more there until near or at the climax the revelation the reader can’t do without explodes onto the page.
You might start out near the beginning of your story with a hint of reveal or a small unimportant part of it, then at a turning point in the tale reveal something that takes your story in a new direction to the surprise of the reader. A larger, more important, reveal could come during the crisis, i.e., where the protagonist makes a critical decision or choice that impels her or him into the climax. The most important part, the part that cannot be held back, which is necessary for the climax to end in a way you want, happens.
A reveal should enhance, maintain or hinder the plot. How this occurs is your job as a writer. A reader of your story wants to know what happens next to the main character. All is fair if what you write logically fits into the plot to enhance, maintain or hinder it.
This is not to say what you write down is the truth. Your protagonist could be a liar for instance, or she or he could be mistaken due to any number of character defects. Or you might throw in a red herring to throw the reader off the trail.
If you are not familiar with the term, red herring, here is an abbreviated definition: Many dogs can be trained to track a person, animal or something belonging to a person. If the dog has been well trained, it will hold to the scent it tracks and not be thrown off by other smells. A final test of a tracking dog is to drag a herring (smelly fish) across the trail. If the dog goes after the herring, it fails the test and must be retrained.
In the next issue of the blog in the category of Reader and Writer Tips, I’ll discuss the construction and use of red herrings to legitimately throw your reader off the track in your story.