Brown leaves battered Mr. Cotter’s beat-up truck as he pried open its door. He shook his head. How much time had withered since he last drove it? A year. He sighed, remembering the plot he puttered it to last. The once-green paint peeled in his hands like a snake shedding its skin.
In this article, I’m going to give you two lists of outside-the-box strategies to cracking the big-picture puzzle of an engaging story. The more you experiment, the more sides of your story you’ll reveal until you can visualize how every piece fits together and find the jewel at the center. As you consider the possibilities, don’t be too quick to discard any, because sometimes the ideas you’re reluctant to try will help you the most.
Mother’s favorite waltz warbled from the corner of the garage. I must have left the phonograph on a few hours ago, before the party. Behind me, the chipped door closed on the clink of crystal, the swish of silk, and the thrum of a cello.
Worldbuilding and plotting are two separate processes, right? Wrong. Like every component of fiction, story world and plot are interlinked. Or rather, they can be. When you take the effort to use worldbuilding to deepen your plot, your book will feel intentional and whole.
Thanks to everyone who bravely embraced the challenge of this competition! We received entries spanning a wide range of genres—from historical fiction to romance to fantasy—and after many hours of reading, sorting, and discussing, Josiah and I chose our finalists. The results were close as always, and we hope that will encourage you to participate in future contests. For the moment, however, please join us in showering the victors with accolades and confetti! They’ve earned it.
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the interaction between two lovers became graphic? Or been absorbed in an adventure story and suddenly had to skim unnecessarily steamy scenes? I have, and I hate it. Not only does the sensuality rip me out of the story and make me roll my eyes, it taints the characters (and prevents me from recommending an otherwise great novel).
Every story consists of tiny, pixel-like decisions that either make the big picture clear and vivid or fuzzy and muted. Whether you’re placing punctuation or determining which character’s voice should narrate a scene, each judgment call will affect readers’ enjoyment. Oftentimes, the difference between clunky and compelling text is a pair of scissors, and the acronym P.R.O.S.E. can help you recognize what to trim.