The other day I read a book that I had waited to read. It was part of a series, and it was long in coming. I set aside an evening, got some beer and chips, and settled in for a nice bout of reading.
And then the story left me disappointed and unhappy. What had gone wrong?
Today, the answer came to me:
The story lacked a real plot.
Oh, there were lots of things happening, and a war brewing. A vision that saw all of them perish, and no solution in sight. Death and destruction everywhere. Desperate action and some soul-searching. Madness and wild rescues. Characters getting hurt and being afraid.
So why do I say that there was no plot? The story was moving along, wasn’t it?
Yes. It moved along like a history book.
There is a reason few people read history books for entertainment. Most of all that’s because history books tell what happened, but they don’t focus on the people who are involved. The people don’t really matter – what matters are the facts and what happened.
And this author forgot to really involve her characters in a real plot and give them a mission.
In fact, the one character with the vision didn’t even tell her partner and her friends about it. The author avoided the conflict this would have brought to her group of MCs, rather than let them live through it and grow even closer to the readers’ hearts. Her characters were all over the world instead, doing their things.
Her characters were not a team. There was no common goal.
And there was no true Main Character. The story just hopped from one to the other without digging deep.
So the lesson here is: If you want readers to care and really get involved into your story, you need a main character or a small team of them that you can follow through the entire story, and you need a plot that stretches them.
Hero and plot must work together.
It’s not enough just to have things happening, even if they are bad and life-threatening.
Make sure your heroes are stretched, forced to grow, yes, even to suffer – and make it intimate enough so the reader can identify with them. Make them fight, grumble and share their pain.
Make the story about the hero, don’t just let it happen to him or her.
And then your readers will join the heroes on the ride and live through the story with them.
What makes you feel connected to a main character? What do you like to see in a story?
Image Source: F. Moebius
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