[Insert random image here that has little to nothing to do with the topic addressed in this article]
Okay. So you’ve got a cast of characters that are both scripted and casted, as well as a world you’ve built to have adventures in. You’ve determined the setting and genre long ago. However, you have yet to create a string of exciting, edge-of-your seat adventures that will keep the reader a captive audience until the final page.
Well, it’s fortunate that you discovered this article. I’m about to give you ten questions that will provide a surefire way for you to plot your next novel effortlessly and smoothly. Please keep in mind that these are approximate estimations on what would make a good story. Feel free to go back and take whatever path you choose.
One note in choosing your path forward: the best plot in writing is the one that comes to you as you’re pounding on the keyboard or scrabbling with your pen. In other words, choose arbitrarily. Sometimes you feel your way through a story without necessarily thinking your way through it. Whatever random “why-the-heck-not” thoughts occur to you when taking this quiz should be taken. If you think you have a better option than my four, go with that instead.
#1: Where does the story start?
A: A sleepy but mysterious village that the main character visits to investigate the whereabouts of his friend
B: A large, crime-infested slum, a place where the main character is trying to escape
C: An important meeting in which the council decides to exile the main character for his/her crimes
D: The main character’s home right before a world-ending disaster occurs
#2: What happens next?
A: The main character is saved from certain doom by the appearance of an old friend
B: The villain unsuccessfully to assassinate the main character
C: The main character arrives at the legendary capitol of the realm, seeking his/her fortune
D: The main character is mugged on the road and is picked up by an elderly couple, who nurse him/her back to life
#3: Time to introduce the main problem. What needs to be fixed?
A: The main character’s niece/nephew/spouse/offspring is kidnapped in an effort to oust the main character
B: A war/apocalypse/civil war breaks out, leaving the main character to protect his/her relatives
C: The villain has an army or superweapon, and it falls on the main character’s lot to stop them
D: The main character has something in his/her possession (a valuable object, a catalyst for a weapon, a person of interest) that the villain will kill to get
#4: How does the main character react to this development?
A: They immediately seek out the help of an old mentor.
B: They react in anger, lashing out against people whom they suspect were involved
C: They try to deflect the responsibility
D: They pack up their bags and leave
#5: Which of the following takes place next?
A: A high-speed chase with a mysterious attacker
B: A third-party entity who is enemies with both the villain and the main character tries to intervene
C: A powerful but malign entity almost kills the main character
D: The villain tries to tempt the main character with something they want
#6: Plot twist! One of the following happens:
A: The main characters spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend is really working for the enemy and betrays them, fleeing afterwards
B: The main character discovers that the villain really killed his/her parents
C: One of the other main characters makes a desperate gambit so that the hero/heroine can escape, dying in the process
D: The main character is injured by a mysterious source
#7: The villain, growing more desperate to catch the main character, does which of the following:
A: They terrorize local villages in hopes that the main character will intervene
B: They start to torture prisoners and threaten those close to the main character
C: They send a sleeper agent who saves the main character’s life in order to join his/her quest
D: Sacks the main character’s home town
#8: The main character then gains an advantage. What is it?
A: He or she has saved the life of a powerful entity (wizard or the like) and that entity is now on their side
B: The main character captures a minion of the villain, from whom they discern the villain’s secret hideout
C: The main character, under a disguise, slips into the villain’s stronghold
D: A third-party entity picks a fight with the villain, leaving him/her vulnerable to attack
#9: Which of the following takes place in the last battle?
A: The villain tries to destroy every living thing on the planet in a last-ditch attempt to spite the main character
B: Someone turns against the villain and betrays them
C: The main character dies
D: All of the above
#10: When the dust clears, what happens?
A: The other good guys remember the main character with a memorial
B: The main character settles down in a nice, quiet cottage with his/her lover
C: The villain is revealed to be alive and has escaped to plot further mischief
D: The main character(s) form a band to further square away the villain’s influences on the world and to stop them if they’re alive out there somewhere
Feel free to take whatever inspiration you may glean from this. I’m just trying to give you ideas: the hard work is (alas!) up to you.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!