Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Is Your Plot Feasible

The plot of the story is more than the things that happen. The plot is really the foundation of everything. It is the vehicle to get your characters to that ultimate learning you sent them out to gain. This IS the structure of the story. But, like in construction, if the framework and the foundation are flawed in some way, there will be problems, either during the actual construction of a building, or after it is finally constructed.

For too many authors, the plots they have constructed have internal flaws and, while, the larger scheme of things may look fine, or there might be smaller scenes that look good, when combined together, the story falls apart. When I look at projects, I really do rely heavily on the synopsis of a story to see how things look. Sure, the first three chapters may be amazing, but it is that synopsis that tells me whether or not the actual plot of the story is going to work. And, unfortunately, more than a few are rejected because there are elements in the plot that are simply not feasible.

Let's start with the definition of feasible:



  1. possible to do easily or conveniently:
    "it is not feasible to put most finds from excavations on public display"
    synonyms: practicable · practical · workable · achievable ·
    attainable · realizable · viable · realistic · sensible · reasonable · within reason · suitable · possible · expedient · doable
    antonyms: impractical
    • informal
      likely; probable:
      "the most feasible explanation"

When you are constructing your story, or creating situations for your characters, it is crucial that you examine many of these synonyms to see if those elements are actually going to work. I don't care if you think because it is a fictional world, it doesn't matter. For the reader, it is going to matter. Even in science fiction and fantasy, the strong writers will clearly back up the feasibility of the things the characters are doing. Let's look at a few:

WORKABLE - Can the scenario you plopped your character in actually work? I see this a lot in contemporary novels where the heroine decides to just walk back into a small town and open up a shop. It is amazing how, with absolutely no time involved, legal issues or financial issues, she is able to create in a matter of a week or so, a totally profitable business. Our super rich business heroes do the same thing. Somehow they are able to make corporate shifts that, in the real world, are simply not possible.
ACHIEVABLE - This is really an issue of the goals you have created for your characters. Can they actually achieve the things they want. This is one of those situations of goals versus dreams. They may wish they could do something, but is it really something they CAN do with their current situation?
ATTAINABLE - Can those plot elements actually be attained? This is again an issue of possible versus plausible. We are not talking about attaining happiness, but attaining those external plot elements. Can they get a mortgage without credit? Can they attain a political position with no experience?
REALISTIC - This is one that pops up in a lot of romantic suspense stories. Is it realistic that a police officer would get involved with a client or someone who is a "person of interest?" Probably not, for the simple reason that if it goes to court, this would be a situation that could cause a mistrial. Would a heroine who is being targeted by a stalker suddenly feel comfortable with having a sexual relationship? Probably not.
This also extends to the things the characters say and do. Are their actions, behaviors, thoughts and dialogue consistent with their actual character? Too often, these are not in alignment.
SENSIBLE - This is one that tends to revolve around the heroines. Does it make any sense that someone would simply think it is a good idea to personally go after a murderer on their own without the use of the police? Probably not! Is it sensible to just quit a 6 figure job and move to the Midwest to open a cupcake shop because she just broke up with her boyfriend? Probably not.

While these might be small points, you have to understand these "small holes" become elements of structural integrity in your story.

Take the time to work these through. And yes, this is another one of those situations where plotting is going to work better than being a "pantster." Sorry!

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