How To Plot A Novel Like A Well-Timed Mechanical Ambush (Part One)

So you want to tell a tale. What do you do? Just sit down and start writing it from the beginning? Do you even know where to begin?

Well, the first step is a “simple” requirement…or so it would seem.

Your task, O Jedi Scribe, is to write one stinking sentence.

That’s it. One sentence. Now to create that sentence, you’re going to have to boil the entire narrative essence of your Epic Tale down to one sentence which focuses on the line of action and the character (or characters). When you achieve the objective, you will know exact what it is you are writing and why. They say the hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write. Your finished sentence will brilliantly distill what it is you are writing.

Write a paragraph or pages of notes attacking your idea from every angle. Then take that raw material and slash it down to one perfectly worded sentence. Make mind maps if that helps you “see” your material.

But when you are done, you will have a sentence that tells your story. If you’ve ever read TV Guide descriptions of what a show is about, this is exactly what you are attempting to do. In Hollywood, this is called the logline. In fact, this is exactly what you are doing here – writing a logline that tells the story of your novel.

Now here’s a set of guidelines that are even more specific to the task.

1. Your sentence must focus on a protagonist, the goal, and the antagonist or antagonistic force opposing the protagonist.

2. Don’t use character names in your sentence; use character types: a cop, a hooker, a rocket scientist. Add a good adjective to add some depth to the character: a burned-out hooker.

3. Clearly present the protagonist(s) goal.

4. Describe the antagonist or antagonist force which opposes the hero.

5. Make it clear that the protagonist(s) are pro-active to the action, not reactive.

6. Detail the stakes or ticking time bomb that the characters are working to achieve or beat.

7. Don’t just tell your story with your logline, sell it as well. When you write the perfect logline of your novel, you’ll have the best thing to tell people when they find out you’re a writer. Everyone always asks: “What’s your story about?” That’s when you rattle off your logline.

So now we just need a good example of all of the above in action. Here’s my logline for Special Task Force: GREEN MAJIK #1 “Pretty Hate Machine” now available at www.bluefalconpress.com:

A maverick detective, a Gonzo journalist, and a has-been porn star fight to expose the federal government’s involvement in the worst schoolyard shooting in history while a super-secret strike unit infiltrates the center of the cyclone, the factory where little girls are turned into suicide juggernauts and unleashed.”

Are we on the same sheet of music now? Is it as clear as the water in a Caribbean lagoon? This is Step One in writing a great genre novel. In the next lesson, I’m going to show you how to diagram all the important turning points in your story and structure your idea inside the 3-Act Paradigm or what needs to be in the Beginning, what to do with the Middle (a lot of writers get bogged down here and I will show you how to stay out of the mud) and how to wrap it all up with a satisfying End.

Stay tuned.

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