Have you ever had that great story idea–the one that was going to explode and set the world on fire? The one that movie producers would come and beg for the rights to make a film adaptation of? The one that would make you become a rich man (or woman)?
Have you ever gotten one of those?
But then you realize that the story you are writing just isn’t going anywhere. Sure, you’ve got some epic plot twists, and of course you’ve written in some of those awesome fight sequences…but the plot isn’t progressing. The characters aren’t growing, and they’ve gotten no closer to defeating that alien force threatening to destroy the earth. Why has this happened? What did you do to keep your plot from moving? How do you even know when this is happening?
This is what we must discuss today.
To pinpoint the area in your story where your progress has stopped, you first must pinpoint the reason behind why your plot isn’t going anywhere.
Who was your main character when they began their journey, and who are they going to be by the end of the book?
What is your plot about?
When did you first notice that your story/characters weren’t maturing?
Where is the last place in your story where it IS moving forward?
How do you plan to reach “the end”?
These are a few of the questions you can ask yourself to see what is making your plot stand still.
Another method to know when your story isn’t progressing is to read through the manuscript as if you were reading it for the first time—with fresh eyes. Immerse yourself in the plot, become close with the characters, and look for the place where you become bored as a reader. Look for places where you want to skim the page instead of reading through it. Find the area where your character seems to stay the same.
What makes characters feel real is their tendency to change over time, as the story moves forward, exactly how a person would in real life. Find the thing that doesn’t change in your character’s life and shake things up for them. Make them learn a lesson. Make life hard for them.
My third and final way of knowing when your plot isn’t moving is to look at the plot itself. Is it compelling? Is the ending drastically different from where it began? Are you surprised at how far you’ve come? If the answer is no, you have a problem.
Your plot needs to be important enough to your main character that they can’t keep it off their mind. The theme behind your story needs to reflect the plot you intend to follow.
You can’t have a theme about grace and the healing from sin if you don’t have a plot that reflects the glory of God. Just the same, you can’t have a theme of “love defeats fear” if your plot doesn’t allow anything to scare your characters in the first place. You need to have a plot that allows your theme to shine through, and your characters to grow, otherwise, your story will come to a standstill.