Plotting an Emotional Journey for Your (Fiction) Readers

Fiction readers are largely interested in going on an emotional journey. Infusing your writing with emotionally-evocative imagery, characters and situations is the best way to get people to continue reading, and to talk about your work afterwards. Invoke emotion on page 1. Don’t stop until the end of the last sentence in the book.

But you can’t just have your book be a nonstop extravaganza of happiness, true love and victory. That’s where the concept of the emotional journey comes in. Thing about this: There have been many, many novels written in the history of the world. As more novels were written, some emerge as more popular than others, and resonate with more readers.. These novels resonate more because of the emotional journeys they take their readers on. Over time, some authors have attempted to distill precisely what kind of emotional journeys readers want from books. Their efforts have resulted in a number of genre-specific Story Templates or Beat Sheets, that recommend certain universal conditions and events that should occur in a story, along with when those conditions and events should occur, for maximum emotional impact.

To Learn More About Writing For Emotional Impact, Read This Post by Nanci Panuccio.

Most stories are going to include emotional highs and lows, as well as plot twists, or events whose occurrence results in unexpected outcomes that change the overall perception or tone of the story.

This site is for beginners, so I am going to give the best advice I can for beginners. The best advice I can give you as a beginning author is to plot out your story before you write it. This will help you get a feel for story, assist you in scheduling the completion of your book, and view writing your novel as climbing a series of small hills, instead of attempting to scale Mt. Everest.

The basic anatomy of a plot is a series of one-to three-sentences describing events, turning points, and narratives that tell your character’s basic story.

BASIC SCIENCE FICTION PLOT EXAMPLE:

  • A worker drone named Thirty-Seven works in a factory and has no ambition or problems.

  • Thirty-Seven is framed for murder and sent to a desert prison rules by a tyrannical overlord named Devil.

  • Devil’s wife Angel becomes fascinated by Thirty-Seven, and begins following him around.

  • Devil discovers this and sends out a gang of robots to kill Thirty-Seven.

  • Thirty-Seven makes a startling discovery that awakens secret powers he never knew he had.

  • Thirty-Seven defeats the robots sent to kill him, but still cannot defeat Devil, and ends up in prison.

  • He loses hope and gives up on his quest, languishing in prison.

  • Angel receives a secret communication meant for Devil, revealing his weakness to x-rays.

  • Angel assists Thirty-Seven in escaping and acquiring an X-Ray gun, restoring Thirty-Seven’s confidence.

  • Together, Thirty-Seven and Angel defeat Devil with the X-Ray gun.

  • Surprise! The X-Ray gun is also Thirty-Seven’s weakness, and Angel must use her healing powers to save Thirty-Seven, who then loses his superpowers, but ends up ruling the desert prison with Angel anyway. THE END.

See how the reader is taken on an emotional journey? We started out with this basically good character who is perfectly happy going along in his life, not hurting anyone, and then he is framed for murder. This grave injustice endears Thirty-Seven to the reader, who from that point on, wants to see justice served. They want to see the wrong made right. Also, when it is revealed that the villain’s wife is interested in Thirty-Seven, the reader’s emotions rally in support of taking the wife away from the villain, as recompense for what he has done to the hero.

Then the pendulum swings the other way. Our hero is given an advantage, and it seems as though he may be able to beat his rival, but his hopes are dashed and he is thrown into a prison-within-a-prison. There, the reader experiences ego-death, as the hero gives up. Then, when all seems lost, assistance comes and finally, the reader is rewarded for sticking with the hero all this time, as he finally defeats the villain. Then, as an added bonus, the plot is twisted and it is revealed that the same weapon used to defeat the villain is also harmful to the hero. This is where the real nail-biting happens. Will the hero survive, after all he has been through? Will he have to sacrifice himself, freeing the villain’s wife? No. This story gives the reader the ultimate payoff: The Happily Ever After ending. Readers will come away from this story knowing they have been through something, and the subtext is that even in the face of certain defeat, things can work out in unexpected ways for the best.

See how the emotional element drives this entire story forward? That is one of the big advantages of plotting: You get to determine what the emotional highs and lows of the story will be, you get to tell the story through the expression and perception of emotions. Now, all you have to do is fill in the blanks.

When you have your story plotted about, it is time to flesh everything out and turn the plot into a real story. This is done by separating your plot points onto different pages and then writing at least 1,000 words based on each plot point. I recommend more. Of course, sometimes that might not be practical, but as a general rules, it’s a good way to get your story written. Following this method, the more meaningful plot points you have, the longer your manuscript will be.

Another way to write you book, if you do not want to plot it out, is to make up the story as you go along. This can be a little tougher than plotting, but for some authors, it works out just fine. If you choose to write as you go, remember to keep things interesting by maintaining the emotional journey – never let readers stop caring – and you will have a better chance of keeping readers engaged. When I write this way, I always come up with surprises for my characters whenever things start to lag even the slightest bit.

“Life is awesome, live your dreams!”

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‘Easy’ Method for Writing Your First Novel

I am going to share with you the easiest method I know of for writing a novel.

This is one of the methods I endorse in my book, Magnify And Multiply.

The first thing you need to do is think of a character. This will be the main character of your book. If you are writing an adventure, this person will be your Hero protagonist. If you are writing Romance, then this person will be a Man or Woman who will eventually (hopefully) find love. Your character could even be a dog, or a child, or a fairy or vampire. Do yourself a favor and create a character you know something about. If you know a lot about playing music, then a musician would be a great character to create. If you know a lot about video games, then a gamer would be a good choice.

When you have your main character chosen, have given them a name, and decided what you want them to look like, create a second character. This could be either a family member, friend, lover or coworker. Someone that will regularly interact with your main character, but is ‘on their side’. Also give this person a name and decide on their appearance. This character can be a little more outside your area of expertise, but they need to be believable. If your main character is a musician, then maybe your second character can be a band manager or recording engineer.

Now, you need to create your third character. This person will be the antagonist. Every story has one. A bad guy. Someone who somehow thwarts the desires of the main character and keeps them from achieving their goal, be it finding a treasure, saving the princess, or simply finding love. Make sure that the antagonist you create has opposing traits to your main character, this will make it easier for readers to understand that the main character and the antagonist are at odds with one another.

Now that you have your three main characters, it is time to do some basic plotting for your novel. Some people do not like to plot their stories out, and they write by the seat of their pants, these people are ‘pantsers’, but for the easiest possible way to write a novel, you need to be a plotter instead. Trust me. You don’t want to get twenty-thousand words into a story and not know where it is going, and then just give up because your story has lost all its momentum. You need to plot if you want to get through the novel writing process without too much indecision or having to wrack your brain, searching for some kind of resolution to the quagmire you have put all your beloved characters into, without knowing how to get them out of it first.

Here is how you can easily plot out your story: Write out 25 – 50 single sentence events that will happen in your story, from beginning to end. To help make your novel more successful, I suggest using ‘beat sheets’ AKA plot templates. There are several genre-specific plot templates that can be observed in nearly every successful book in any given genre. There is a template for Romance stories, and there is a different template for Hero’s Journey / Adventure stories. Each genre has it’s own basic path that the story must follow, in order to keep readers emotionally engaged and thereby interested. Writing fiction is very much about taking readers on emotional journeys of the imagination. If your story does not rouse emotion, it will not succeed. In the history of the world, millions of books have been written, and it is universally accepted that some types of storytelling are much more emotionally engaging that others. That’s why I suggest you follow a beat sheet. History has proven that stories plotted out according to them are more successful than unplotted stories that the author just made up as they went along. So, begin your novel by writing out 25 – 50 distinct plot points, according to the beat sheet or template that best fits the basic idea of your story i.e. Romance, Adventure, Coming of Age, etc.

When you have your 25 – 50 plot sentences written out in order from start to finish, start filling in the spaces between them with 500 – 1000 word sections. These will be come the chapters of your book. When you have done this properly, you will have a novel that is about 20,000 – 75,000 words long. Those numbers are padded because you will very likely write some chapters that are shorter than 500 words, and some that are much longer than 1,000 words. This is normal. Your creative juices will be flowing freely, not having to decide what is going to happen in the story anymore, because you already did that when you plotted it out. Now, you can focus on fleshing everything out, describing everything that happens, and everyone’s reactions, thoughts and actions resulting from events in your story.

That is the lion’s share of the work as far as actually writing your first novel is concerned. When you have your manuscript completed, id will be time to get it edited. When you are just starting out, it might be too expensive for you to hire a professional editor, which can cost one cent a word, making a 75,000 word novel cost 750 dollars to edit. If you cannot afford professional editing in that kind of price range, don’t worry, there are free book editing options.

If you can afford a professional editor, do it. There is really no substitute. They will find things that you will not find. I know you will probably think that your manuscript is perfect when you send it to an editor, but no manuscript is perfect until it is edited, and even then, it really depends on who’s reading it. The goal is to get as close to perfect as possible prior to publication. That is an editor’s job. You may think that they are taking your baby and turning it into something else, and you are right. They are helping your baby grow up. They are taking out things that should not be there and putting in things that should. A good editor will never guess about these things, they will know exactly what they are doing, and your book will be better because of it.

When your first book is properly edited, it is complete and ready to be published, and it is also time for a party.