Your characters have problems.

I don’t mean flaws in character design, even though they possibly do. I mean the problems your characters SHOULD have. The problems they face in your story ie. villains, conflict, war, homophobic parents, not having a date to the big dance. Y’know…like a plot.

Here are 3 ways to improve your plot

1. Your Characters Need to Make Decisions

This may sound obvious, but it isn’t always. The Problem™ isn’t just something your character has to go through that sucks—they should be faced with options, and have to make Active Decisions™ that affect the outcome of the story. This gives your characters agency—if they don’t have agency, if they don’t make decisions, your characters will be read as passive. Passive characters aren’t interesting.

2. These Choices Need To Be Hard

Give your characters inner conflict.

Hard, tough decisions to make. How to face their big problem. In figuring out what options your characters will choose, remember their

  • Motivations
  • Background
  • They way they were raised
  • Moral/Ethical/Spiritual beliefs
  • Fears
  • Loyalties

3. Figure Out The Stakes

Based on what kind of story you have, the stakes for your protagonist are going to be different.

  • SciFi novel about how the world is going to get obliterated by an evil force in 2 days? High stakes.
  • Romance novella about 29-year old Tequila Sheila who can’t seem to find a date to her brother’s wedding? Lower stakes.

And there’s nothing wrong with having higher or lower stakes—but do think about where your stakes should be for your particular story. Many stories don’t have high enough stakes for readers to be captivated; these stories need to be reconfigured, after realizing what exactly is at stake and to what degree. Understanding what your stakes are can help you figure out what kind of reading experience your book will be.

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