December 5, 2011

Writers Tip 86: 11 Tips from Blockbuster Plots

writers tips

Great tips for soon-to-be great writers

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today, I have ten great ideas from Martha Alderson’s Blockbuster Plots: Pure and Simple (Illusion Press 2004). Some are epiphanies; some simple reminders of what a plot is supposed to do. All of them will help to refocus your writing on the essentials of a plot:

  • A scene shows. Summary tells
  • All conflict, confrontations, and turning points–all the high points of your story–must be played out in scene…
  • Story is conflict shown in scene
  • Develop the character’s inner world as carefully as the outer one
  • help the reader remember who goes with which name (an opportunity for that distinguishing characteristic)
  • Only use flashbacks that themselves are above the line on your plotline or are important turning points in the character’s development
  • If you’re absolutely sure you absolutely have to include the flashback, try using one when you’re bogged down in the middle of the middle.
  • Adversity does not build character. Adversity reveals it.
  • Character consistency is paramount.
  • When deciding on your story problem, use the tension of the action that is unfolding on center stage to be a reflection of the protagonist’s internal tension.
  • Show, in scene, your protagonist taking center stage alongside his or her greatest fear.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s seeking representation for a techno-thriller that she just finished. Any ideas? Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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