Friday, June 6, 2014

An Insight On What Scott Likes In Stories - Plots

We talked yesterday about things I liked in characters for submissions, today, I want to briefly talk about plots that work and don't work for me.

Like the discussion we had on characters yesterday, I love plots that are realistic. In other words, this is truly a story that would likely or could likely happen in the world. Now, with that said, I am not talking about plots that only happen on the Jerry Springer show. Weird is not what we are looking for. Instead building stories around situations that an everyday person could potentially relate to are great.

I am also interested in seeing stories that are not filled with one situation after another. In other words, pick one central issue the characters need to work through and stick to that. Adding in a ton of additional story lines makes the story too complicated to work through. When this happens, the reader becomes exhausted trying to figure out how the characters are even going to solve all of these problems you as the author threw at them.

Plots also need to be free of a lot of holes and gaps in the story. Too often, in a rush to fit the story into a given word count, or to get the characters to the scene you want to get them to, authors will leave out plot elements that create that smooth transition. This is where you need to have the outside readers looking at your story to provide those "outside eyes." If they are left with questions as to "how did they get there?" then you have some problems.

I think the biggest thing for me is seeing a plot that is too forced. In other words, the author has created some characters they like, but probably don't fit together so well. To get them together, the plot ends up not being very believable. For example, I had a submission several years ago with a heroine who was from the upper classes of society - we're talking someone who would like be on one of those TV shows like The Real Wives of Atlanta. The problem was that the author paired this person up with someone who was more along the lines of a blue collar worker. In this case, the plot because so forced and so contrived just to get these two together. It shouldn't take this much work! By the way, I see the same things with the "snobby rich city woman getting stuck in Montana at a dude ranch and trying to wear high heels at a barn."

Plots need to have a strong sense of a beginning, middle and an end. You need to have a clear beginning that works as an introduction. We need to be sucked into the story and the conflict of the characters. Once in the story, we need to see things flowing from one point to the next with strong "cliff hangers" at the end of each of the section. There needs to be a constant reason to be heading forward with this story. In reality, I want nothing more than to never want to put the book down.

The next thing I look for are great plot twists. This does not mean something out of the blue hitting me as I read, but things I would normally kick myself over for "not seeing this coming." The analogy I always like to use with this is the movie (and book) HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. I love this one because readers spend the entire book "accusing" each of the characters of being responsible, only to be shot down in the next scene and proved wrong. When the bad guy is revealed, we end up screaming (I should have seen this coming).

This last one also connects to the characters we talked about yesterday. For myself, I am someone who will shoot down a project if I see unethical behavior on the part of the hero and heroine. One I see a lot of is when the hero is a professor at a college dating a student. I have worked in education for over 20 years and that instructor would be fired. I don't care if the person is of legal age, we simply have an ethics violation.

In simple terms, keep the story real, focused, and always moving toward a single goal.

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