Plot templates and devices, Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

Illustration to the poem Jabberwocky. A work b...
Illustration to the poem Jabberwocky. A work by English illustrator Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914). First published in Carroll, Lewis. 1871. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve seen them— the books, lists, articles—that enumerate plots. The betrayed lover, coming of age, the quest, the hero’s journey, etc. There’s nothing wrong with them—as tools.

Any reader can tell you they can spot a “plot template.” The story plods, the turns are predictable. The reader puts down the script and picks up the next one.

Work as hard as you can to make your story unique and interesting. Give your characters depth, make them struggle and in unique ways. Save the plot lists as prompts, for example, how to develop a subplot and enrich secondary characters.

Go back to a plot template if your get stuck in the middle. Think of a unique way to challenge your characters. Give ’em hell.

Use your imagination for the main story. Work through the story beats, check that they are all there. Make the twists as novel and unpredictable as possible. Brainstorm challenges for the characters. Brainstorm what within your unique story can cause the most trouble for your protagonist. Is the antagonist just like the protagonist except for….? Is the antagonist smarter, stronger, cleverer than your protagonist? Keep asking yourself questions. It’s the best way to avoid a plodding and predictable story line.

A unique and strong story is your best selling point.

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