Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Perfect Plot Pointers

by Raelene Gorlinsky

One of the members of the critique group in which I participate joked that he'd bring the first page of his work in progress, and we could all help him outline the whole book (not a romance). So I offered him my best advice on how to make his book the mega-seller it can be. Everyone in the group found this hysterical, we've seen these flaws so often.

Plot must have:

No action or excitement until at least Chapter Seven.

Long, pointless reminiscing on main character’s babyhood, childhood, and teen years.

Agonizingly lengthy descriptions of scenery and weather.

Lots of irrelevant details to derail story momentum.

Scenes repeated twice or more, from different characters’ perspectives.

Dream sequences that don’t relate to story.

Surprise ending with no lead-up or foreshadowing.

Characters must be:

Characters fall into two categories: flawless and fatally flawed. The flawless must continue that way throughout the story, or even become more perfect (wealthier, happier, prettier). Flawed characters must unravel and devolve into absolute monsters who are destroyed in the final chapter.

Main characters must have some admirable and politically correct habit or attribute: be a vegan and belong to PETA, or teach medieval French literature for free at the local inner-city (slum) school.

The fatally flawed must have some physical scar or disability that makes them unpleasant to look upon. But this can never be used as a justification or explanation for why they have become misogynistic or evil.

Lots of secondary characters who are boring, unpleasant and unbelievable—or needlessly eccentric and distractingly wacky. They must all be average and unremarkable in appearance: medium height, average weight, brown hair, eyes of no noticeable color.

At least one secondary character must exist solely to feed backstory to the reader and provide admiration for the protagonist.

There must be such a sufficiency of minor characters, including cabbies and homeless street people, that the reader must keep a written list of them. These characters should be developed using basic racial/sexual/religious stereotypes and generalities, and be described with cliches.

The villain must be eeeeevil, purely because he loves to be evil. Much text must be devoted to the villain’s recitations of his misdeeds and crimes and general evilness.

There must be a cat named after a famous composer or poet, and a dog named after a brand of liquor or beer.

1 comment:

Rena Marks said...

Did we forget the horrifying childhood the hero endured, perhaps an alcoholic father, who beat him repeatedly until the child grew into an perfectly honed, unselfish protector of all innocents near and far?