We’re almost to November, but no one panic just yet. If you’re a planner, you probably have all of your characters fleshed out by now. A protagonist and an antagonist of some sort are about to start working against one another in your head and on the page.
But what now? What are these characters going to actually do over the course of your novel?
What I’ve always been told (and I’ve found it works) is Characters + Conflict = Plot
Is this a perfect equation? No, but it helps to create and drive your plot forward.
Let’s start thinking about plot by taking a look back at your characters.
Often, your protagonist and antagonist will want opposite things.
This is an easy source of conflict that can help drive your plot forward. One will try to stop the other from achieving their goal and may succeed (or fail) at doing that. The “good guy” can’t always win, and neither can the “bad guy.” The conflict always has to be resolved in one way or another– even if it’s not in your good guy’s favor.
Here’s a tip from me, especially in a rough draft— use that to your advantage!
What are the 5 worst things that could happen to your protagonist?
Those are the best things that could happen for your antagonist(s) to get what they want. This also works the opposite way. Ahhh conflict! *sits back and basks in the fictional drama* But really, these obstacles help your plot develop and move forward. You don’t have to use all of them but this can guide you.
The Dreaded Plot Diagram.
Most writers have seen a basic plot diagram at one point or another (damn you, high school English classes). This might not be what yours looks like (mine is a heck of a lot more up and down than this) but you get the idea.
Plot and conflict need to begin in your very first chapter. This is what hooks a reader’s interest and keeps them going.
You want to introduce your character, but you also need to have an inciting incident.
An inciting incident gets the plot rolling right off the bat and immediately creates some sort of conflict, or problem for your M.C. to solve.
- This gives your M.C. a goal and some sort of motivation to achieve that goal.
- Your antagonist may or may not even have a hand in the inciting incident, or we may not know they are involved right away. However, you’re going to want to bring them in very soon.
- What ways can you make the antagonist stand in the way of your protagonist’s goal?
But conflict in your novel doesn’t always have to do with the antagonist!
Your poor protagonist doesn’t always have to be bashed over the head with terrible things. There are other kinds of conflict you can use: It could be internal, related to romance, or any number of subplots you have– but remember, it should be necessary to the story.
It should help your character grow, learn, or change over the course of the novel.
Personally, I love conflict, I have at least traces of conflict or tension in every scene, every chapter of the stories or novels that I write. I don’t create a strict outline, but conflict that naturally arises is what keeps me excited to write my story and keep going. Some problems in my novel might be resolved as the story progresses, but others arise.
One of my favorite Youtube Vloggers, Katytastic has a great video about story structure, and an outlining process. While I don’t outline much and I don’t strictly follow this structure, it helps me make sure that my story is on track and the story progressing. I use it as a guide.