Every scene, every plot, every novel that is to be successful follows an arc of some kind. A work of fiction typically unfolds with scene setting exposition, followed by a rising action, a climax, and brief falling action to wrap up the plot. Although not all successful pieces of literature have followed this formula, it is one that has proven potent for as long as stories have been told. Each scene of your work should follow a similar pattern, echoing the rising and falling actions of the larger body. Below is a summary of six cyclical points necessary to intensify your plot, engage your reader, and hold their attention through each scene and chapter.
The Set Up
- Goal––Begin with a specific/definable goal your POV character wants.
- Obstacles ––Set up obstacles or conflict your character must face before reaching their goal.
- Disaster––Don’t let them have their goal right away. Let the reader see them struggle.
4. Reaction––Show your characters emotions and actions as a result of the Disaster.
5. Dilemma––Force your character to wrestle with his next move. There will be no good options to choose from. Let them deliberate.
6. Decision––The decision should involve risk and a slim chance for success. This decision leads into the character’s next goal, conflict, disaster, and so on.
These six steps produce the foundation for realistic and psychologically viable responses from your character. When one fails, one doesn’t just jump on the next bus. We stew, we agonize, and then we plot anew. These struggles and successive approximations toward the characters goals are captivating because they are human; they inspire empathy and hope within the reader. For optimal results use these steps in a cyclical fashion, increasing the risk and dilemma as you rise to meet the climax of the broader arc of your main plot.