Can You Unlock Your Novel With One Breakthrough Key?


Are you, like me, trying to plot a new novel, and feeling uninspired and stymied at each turn?  
Where are the characters going?  
What are they going to do?  
How will they interact?  
What even is the POINT?

9 times out of 10, this is the story of every plot we've ever tried to course.  I know, right?  UGH.  Nothing makes you feel so competent as staring blankly at the empty plot you know you're meant to write.  But there's actually a remarkably easy way to get that ball rolling.  It's a super important catalyst for the plot - and most of us forget about it!

plot from the antagonist's point of view!

You want to know WHY your protagonists are struggling, WHAT they are up against, HOW the novel is going to pan out?  FIGURE OUT WHAT THE ANTAGONIST WANTS.  If everything were hunky-dory, there would be no plot!  If the antagonist didn't have a goal and drive, which the protagonists have to thwart, then what's the point?

You're probably not going to write the actually story from the antagonist's point of view, but get the ball rolling with a preliminary outline (mental or physical) from the driver's seat of the antagonist's brain.  Ye Olde Antagonist is the one who is going to inject purpose into the story - otherwise we could just all go to Maresgate and splash about on the seashore like Margaret WANTED to do...

why didn't I think of that sooner

I know, right?  You hear it and you think, "DUH.  That totally makes sense.  Why didn't I think of that before?"  I don't even remember where I got this idea, but I forgot it and then it came back to me in the middle of the night.  I legit got up and wrote it down for you guys because otherwise I WOULD HAVE FORGOTTEN AGAIN.  PHEW.  Okay.  Hopefully that will make my upcoming work a little easier to plot.

is your work giving you fits?  hack at it with this dead herring and see if it budges the plot!

image via pinterest. bet you didn't see that coming.

21 ripostes:

  1. I've found this to be super useful, not just for plotting purposes but to make sure the villain isn't flat: for me, at least, I can spend so much time agonizing over the protagonist that I'm not sure what makes the antagonist tick. Except that whatever he does is Necessary for the Story. But if you think about it, the villain is really the one who's driving this ship, and if his motivations fall flat the rest of the story likely will, too. But on the other hand, if you can figure out his master plan, you're that much closer to figuring out the plot. :3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't even know how many times I've made the mistake of not zoning in on the antagonist, so he does wind up flat and stupid. :| So yeah, this is pretty much THE ONE + ONLY KEY TO WRITING YOUR NOVEL along with all the others...

      Delete
  2. This may help solve some problems with my WIP...I'll have to try it. Thanks! I already knew I had to figure that man out sometime, because he was annoying the world out of me with his blankness, but now I think I'd better do it sooner rather than later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohhhh, trust me. It's so much better to do it sooner rather than later. I know from painful experience. XD

      Delete
  3. I love doing this and it's part of my regular routine for exactly the reasons you listed. It's a vital part of the very foundation of the story. I don't usually /like/ my villains (duh) but I /do/ like getting inside their heads. It's boring and limiting to only be inside the heads of the 'good' guys. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like this is the #1 reason why Rupert was such a GOOD antagonist: you KNEW him. Everyone (who liked the story) tells me that they don't LIKE Rupert, but they //like// Rupert...and they're so conflicted. Nee, hee hee hee. XD

      Delete
    2. I AGREE. Understanding him and his motivations made it harder to just 'hate him' because oh gee, he's the bad guy. Plus, his particular motivations were such that you couldn't really hate him once they were understood. (Vs Hitler whose motivations I fully understand but still detest most of them.)
      BRAVA for accomplishing this, Jenny! -_- about the laughter. :D

      Delete
  4. Interesting idea
    Know thy enemy- know thy story.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Golden reminder! It's one of those pieces of advice I've forgotten (and now remembered again) too. This was one of the problems with my first novel, and one reason it took me AGES to edit that unsightly thing. I think I wrote that book all backwards--worldbuilding and character development and villain motives were all figured out after the fact. So for a good long while, the world was a mostly blank canvas on a very shaky easel, the characters were spineless and flat, and the villain was the he was simply because That's What Villains Do. XD

    Plotting from the antagonist's point of view might also be just what I need to get the first draft of book 2 going in the right direction. Right now the story is still struggling to get established. Thank you for this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I...don't even want to think about how pointless and flimsy my first stories were. I also fell into the "Let's Explore the World for No Apparent Reason!" cliche, and "How Do We Even Pronounce These Names?" cliche, and "This Story Could be a Third as Long and It Would Still be Worthless" cliche. Ah, those were the days...

      Delete
  6. I've never commented on your blog before, so I decided to toady. :) I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog! Your posts are truly inspiring to me and I always look forward to reading them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AHHH. WELCOME! SO GLAD YOU DECIDED TO COMMENT! :D I am super, super peached that you enjoy these posts. I do try to a) keep them short + sweet, and b) make them super relevant to your needs. I care! <3

      Delete
  7. I don't feel like I CAN start working on a story until I've done this. It's one of my favorite tricks. Jenny would you feel it an imposition is if I posted a response to this and linked to you? Reading your post made me want to share some tips for doing this but I wanted to check with you before posting about it so soon after you did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh, NO it would not be an imposition. I would love to have you share a post with your tips on this topic! I think this is a fundamental key in getting one's novel going - as you already know - and the more writers who know it, the less heartache there will be! :D

      Delete
    2. I wrote it! https://carolynrgormley.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/evil-plans/

      Delete
  8. Also I just wanted to say that I'm super impressed with the new tone of your blog. I miss the old days of inklight posts and getting to know plenilune for the first time but you're doing such a good job of being a positive but challenging voice to writers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! That is an enormously encouraging thing to hear. Blogging has definitely grown me, and my blogging itself has grown. I'm eager to see what the future holds.

      Delete
  9. "If the antagonist didn't have a goal and drive, which the protagonists have to thwart, then what's the point?"

    YESYESYESYESYESYES.

    YES.

    I'm going to draw a connection to theatre b/c obvi. When you portray a character in a show, in a scene, in a sketch, you ALWAYS ask yourself: What does this character want? What is her goal? WHAT DOES SHE WANT. Because we all /want/ something; we always have a "goal." This desire may change from moment to moment—humans are contradictory beings—and you may want and not-want something at the same time. But as soon as you work through the murk and can say, "This is what I want," so many things become clear: blocking (movement), tone, eye contact. You KNOW how to /BE./ Because you know what you want.

    And talking to other actors about what /their/ characters want gives you so much more perspective. Just like asking yourself, "Hey, what does my antagonist want?" Sometimes the answer to our most difficult puzzles is going back to basic (but not simple!) questions.

    (Okay, Katie, get out of the library and back into the theatre.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. {Jenny is too tired/sick to blog right now. Your substitute teacher today is Katie, because she obviously thinks about this sort of thing far deeper than Jenny does.}

      Delete
  10. Yep, yep, yep. In plotting my most recent tome, I was forced to do this because I had three protagonists whose paths only intersected very rarely (how rarely? they live centuries apart). Plotting from the villain's POV provided the clear through-line I needed to construct a coherent plot out of three chronologies. Very helpful.

    (Hi! It's lovely to see you blogging again, Jenny; I just wish I were a more consistent reader!)

    ReplyDelete