plot development

by Mina Bancheva
(Bath, Avon)

Question: I am writing a psychological novel and at the moment have good ideas about my characters in terms of their back story, motivations and also have a aspects of the plot in mind. What I am struggling with is finding ways to move the plot forward, i.e. complications. My main character is an immigrant to the UK, she has met someone and is going to marry them (eventually), they will have a daughter, the marriage will break down and she will leave her daughter in the care of the father because she not confident to bring her up on her own. Any suggestions?

Answer: Yes: figure out what your story goal/problem is. Once you know what problem she is trying to solve or what goal she is trying to achieve, it will be much easier to determine what complications could arise in the course of pursuing it.

You can think of a plot as a roller coaster. Some events will represent progress towards the goal. Other events will suggest disaster will occur instead. Dramatica calls these Requirements and Forewarnings. But without a story goal, these events lose their meaning and become just "stuff that happens." Once you know your goal, you can map out what must happen for it to be achieved (Requirements) and what Forewarnings will crop up.

Keep in mind too that the story goal is the goal that affects or involves most of the characters. For instance, are they all looking for acceptance, forgiveness, fame, escape, security, etc. This is separate from the main character's inner conflict, which is her personal struggle whether to change or remain true to her nature.

It is her decision - change or steadfast - that will determine whether she succeeds in achieving the story goal at the climax.

For instance, should we read her decision to leave her child with the father as a failure on her part (that she makes the wrong decision and ends up worse off), or should we feel that she is making the right decision for herself? Or is it right for the child and everyone else, but bad for her?

Check out this article for a simple approach for mapping this out...

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