Plot. Characters. Action.
Those three simple words are my personal motto and reflect my writing style.
- Plot creates the framework.
- Action keeps the reader interested, whether the conflict is external or internal.
- Characters are the glue that ties the two together and brings the story to life.
I’m also a firm believer in the minimalist tradition when it comes to setting and description. It is what I tend to read most, and reflects in the way I write.
If there is no plot or plan, there is no motivation for the characters. A would be hero or heroine would simply mull around all day, every day. Whatever the antagonist is planning, if anything, would go unhindered and unchallenged. Just like nature, if something remains at rest too long it will grow stagnant and decay. It does not make very interesting reading material. Which brings me to the next point.
Action, otherwise known as conflict, whether it is external or internal, is vital. If there is a plan, but no conflict, what will hold the reader’s interest?
If the heroine or hero walked up to the antagonist and said, “Stop what you are doing. It’s wrong”. The antagonist agrees right then and there with the heroine or hero.
Not much of a story, right?
There has to be action or conflict or the reader will lose interest.
Characters. The glue that holds everything together. I couldn’t write the two paragraphs above on plot or action without characters. If you have characters and either plot or action is missing, you don’t have a story.
What makes a good character? Personality? Attributes? Skills? They certainly contribute, but it would be a mediocre character at best.
Action makes the character. The character is defined and measured on how he, she, or it rises to the challenge. How they deal with the conflict either within themselves or externally. Either the character will change or submit. A great character deals with both forms of conflict. Nobody is perfect. If a character has no flaws, there is no story.
You know when people say if I could only go back in time I would change “something.” If that was possible, you wouldn’t be who you are today. If someone managed to recreate Nicola Tesla using a fragment of his original DNA, would he be the same person? He would definitely have the potential to become like the original Nicola Tesla, but without the exact same upbringing, environment, and competition of the peers of his time period the clone would have challenges. Who knows? He may take up art instead.
Environment, challenges, and conflict defines who the character is by the way he, she, or it responds to them.
What about the technical aspects of writing? Scene. Acts. Dialogue. Description. Style. Grammar. They are important too.
Yes, they are, but without plot, characters, and action there is no story. The rest would just be futile ink on paper.
Plot. Characters. Action.
If those three elements are represented, I can sell my manuscript for a gazillion bucks on auction to the highest bidder among The Big Six publishing companies?! Right?
I’m afraid it’s not that simple. If you don’t have plot, characters, or action, there certainly will be no story, but just those alone will not propel your works to commercial success.
If you want a manuscript to sell, you have to have those three elements plus know how to write a scene, make the scenes into acts, have great dialog, description, style, and grammar. You also have to know how to balance those three story elements so they enhance each other.
You also have to know the “big” secret. The one thing that will give your manuscript or novel the potential to shine above the rest.
The secret ingredient is you. Only you can separate yourself from the millions of other writers worldwide. Only you can tell the story, your way. It’s called the “author’s voice”.
How do you find your unique voice? Practice. Write.
Will that make you a bestseller? No.
There are amazing authors that have all the story elements and a unique voice, but are relatively unknown. You need lady luck on your side, and she is fickle at best. The most important part of the equation is the reader. For without their support, there would be no story.
Then what good is it having all these elements in a manuscript and a unique “voice”?
It will be a story that you can call your very own, and something that you and if you’re lucky other people would want to read.
Isn’t that the point?
Of course, this is only my opinion.