In my last post I talked about how the book DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth hooked me in the first ten chapters by taking advantage of the Debate. And how she used that to tie the internal conflict to the external conflict. This made me care. It added believability and dimension to the main character.
It’s called high stakes. The main character had to make a decision that mattered. Blake Snyder refers to it as primal. The decision was about family and survival. A universal motivation that any reader can relate to. And so the dystopian part of the novel faded and I was just reading about a girl making tough choices and dealing with the consequences. #win
But after Act I, the conflict didn’t stop. The debate didn’t stop. The debate turned into part of her character arc and growth over the course of the novel. In other words, the opening directly affected the entire novel. It wasn’t a gimmick.
But I loved how each chapter continued to have high stakes. New situations cropped up that might not have been part of the main storyline but made me turn the pages pretty fast. It’s called subplots that work. Almost every chapter created a new tense situation for the character to deal with. And those situations directly affected the emotional arc of the main character.
And the midpoint introduced a major plot twist/mystery.
Keeping tension through the middle:
- Create an opening that directly affects the entire novel.
- Make sure the main character’s motivations are primal.
- If you can, continue the debate into Act II.
- The main character should make tough choices and deal with the consequences.
- Have a well-developed character arc.
- Create subplots where the main character must make choices.
- Create subplots that affect the main storyline.
- Create a midpoint that changes the story. Reveal something big.
Yes I created this list based on a best-seller commercial book. But the successful character driven more literary books I’ve read and analyzed contain all these elements too, on a scale that fit the story.
This is what I love to read and write.
What do you love to read and write? Tell me. Study those books and create your own lists for what works and apply them to your writing.