AJ Reads ‘Plot & Structure’: Chapter 1

If there’s one word I can use to sum up this chapter, it’s: interest. How do you make readers care about your story?

First, there’s the idea of how an interesting plot can happen: through Bell’s LOCK system, yet another writing acronym to incorporate into your notes:

  • Lead. You need at least one main character. They should have something that piques the audience’s curiosity.

  • Objective. Your lead needs something they must accomplish; something that’s life or death, literally or not.

  • Conflict. Things have to stand in your lead’s way.

  • Knockout. How will your lead achieve their goal on a strong, definitive note, win or lose?

I think this is a great way to start a brand new story; it gives you a general direction without being too constricting. I think this is also a way to bolster a story that’s going nowhere; give your lead (or, Bell alludes, to your multiple leads) a LOCK.

There are other “ingredient” suggestions scattered throughout the text that all add up to: building an interesting world. I substitute “different” for interesting here.

And finally, there’s a way to develop scenes that seem flat to you: think of alternate ways it could go, rather than sticking with one way, even if that way seems to have been divinely handed to you from the gods.

Bell goes into more detail, and includes some other tidbits defining what plot is. But I think the most telling definition is the first one: the things that happen while you write. That’s it. You may need to clean it up, but it’s there.

So what’s your LOCK? I’ll tell you mine for one of my main characters, and it’s pretty loose (I think it might be a detriment to have too detailed of a LOCK, at least to start with):

– L: Lisao’s natural form is a fire.
– O: She must survive even after the faith of one dead believer runs out.
– C: Other characters, and even her own inexperience and conscience.
– K: She definitely survives as time runs out, or she… definitely does not.

Bell includes other exercises. Remember, you can buy or borrow his book here. Or from your local bookshop or library.