Monthly Archives: April 2015

When the Novelist’s Imagination Kicks In

Plots GaloreBe A Novelist

I have a book on my library shelf entitled, 20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them). The plot themes (or ideas) range from escape, to adventure, to rivalry, to transformation, to forbidden love, and on and on. You get the picture.

Another similar book, which I have read, but is not in my library, is Georges Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations.

Now to these we can add in lists of genres such as romance, western, young adult, fantasy, and on and on (again on and on!). Infinite varieties of plot and plot ideas.

What’s the point here? The point is that there is a foundation, or a skeleton, of the novel that you are planning to write.

One Plot; Many Stories; All Dull

If a plot outline were given to a dozen novelists and if those writers were to write novels from those outlines – you’re getting ahead of me – none of them would be the same. (You knew what I was going to say, right?)

Be A NovelistActually, this was done in years past when an editor passed out a plot to several writers and asked each to write a short story from that one plot. This editor then went on to publish them in an anthology. While some of the stories were okay, most were quite dull. Why? What was missing? Passion. Passion was the missing ingredient.

Passion Required

Whatever its potential, a plot has no value unless it appeals to you, personally. It is absolutely the writer’s deep passion (or caring) for the story, for the characters, even perhaps for the setting, that breathes vibrant life into a novel.

This then is where the novelist’s imagination comes into play.

The Simple Accomplishment

Plots are public domain. You enjoy one every time you read a novel, watch a movie, or watch a television drama. The best Be A Novelistapproach is to use these plot ideas, but try not to abuse them. After all, artists of all types take their first baby steps by studying the masters, whether it’s painters, dancers, entertainers or what have you.

The plot then is a fairly simple accomplishment. The use of your imagination comes in the next stage – that stage following the determination of how the plot will be structured. This stage is when you choose how to arrange your viewpoint, your time scheme, your characters; which features will stand out and remain in the reader’s mind after the last page has been read.

It’s your imagination that constructs the story line, and in turn controls the story line. Can a writer deliberately harness that imagination? Imagination is certainly a faculty that all writers possess, but can it be invoked?

Plot Problem

After the plot structure is determined (or fairly well determined), and the story is moving forward, what if all of a sudden it seems flat and uninspired, and clomps along rather heavy-footed?

It is now time for a critical assessment. Back up and reassess. Where was your imagination taking you? And why?

Often the fault can be traced to one particular ingredient, one episode, one character who is not pulling his/her weight. Perhaps your imagination went to sleep along the way, and you allowed everything to down-shift. This is oftentimes where discouragement sets in and the entire novel is pushed aside.

Be A NovelistNo Stopping Allowed

Don’t do it. Don’t stop. No matter what, don’t even think about stopping. It’s not the entire novel that’s at fault. Ask yourself:

  • Can the problem character be replaced or omitted?
  • Can the weak incident be replaced or omitted?


Try different approaches. Let your imagination play with different solutions to the problems your characters face.

While you will not stop, you can slow down. In this kind of revision, a leisurely pace is often the best. The imagination can be a balky faculty; it doesn’t really like to be hurried.

Look around you at other people – in the store, at the library, on the bus, at the civic meeting. What are they saying? How are they acting – or reacting?

Listen to sounds – music, bird songs, thunder, traffic, cacophony. How do the sounds affect you? How do they affect your character(s)?

Take a deep breath — what do you smell? What do the smells bring to mind? How does a smell affect your mood? How do certain smells affect your character(s)?

Your answer is there. Look for it. Expect it. Don’t allow your imagination to rest or get lazy. Keep it stimulated.

Harness the Work Horse

It’s almost like a trick or a deception (only a novelist would understand) that the plot idea came so easily. After all, as I pointed out, there are entire books that list them. But then the real work – the real struggle – begins. Now is when that imagination (the work horse) is harnessed, and trained, and used to the hilt.

NOTE: Here’s another blog from the archives  that also  talks about imagination. Check this out.

Be A Novelist

Be A Novelist

Be A NovelistThe Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection now has three 3 available titles.

These clean teen reads, while authored in the past, offer timeless story lines that teens love.


Be A Novelist


What Goes In; What’s Left Out? The Novelist’s Puzzle

The novel plot is in your head. You know how it’s going to develop. (Sort of.) You know your characters. You may even know how the story will turn out. But the nitty-gritty part of writing a novel is learning what to put into the story and what to leave out. Are there some guidelines for making those decisions?

In this blog post we’ll take a closer look.

You Can’t Tell it AllBe A Novelist

The first thing to point out is the most basic: you can’t hope to tell the whole of what happened to your character. It follows then that a crucial matter in constructing the plot is the selection of incidents to narrate.

Even if you were willing to start way back when the character was born (or even before), and go right through to his death, you would still have to leave out ninety-nine percent of the events of the character’s life. And (UGH) how boring a read it would be.

I think we’ve all read stories that try to cover too much ground. The author got carried away with chronicling so many events that he failed to breathe life into any of the scenes. Even biographies (and autobiographies) must be selective – and novels are even more so.

Interesting? Or Relevant?

Episodes of action in the novel are in constant competition with each other for space and time in the story. The beginning author often experiences a conflict between an episode that is interesting, and an episode that is relevant.

It may be that in a novel there might be room for a sequence that is interesting in and of itself, but with little relevance to the movement of the character; however, those should be few and far between. Too many tend to weaken the plot.

Falling in Love with a Scene

The root cause for doing such is because the author has fallen in love with a particular sequence. Believe me, I remember watching many of my beloved scenes meet their demise at the hands of a discerning editor. Of course, the story was much improved by such editorial cleansing – but it was painful nonetheless.

We can’t allow our personal endearment toward a scene cloud our eye on what’s best for the story. Otherwise a certain scene or sequence can carry us away and could then betray the integrity of the entire plot line.

The Author – The Final JudgeBe A Novelist

Only you as the author can be the final judge of what’s important to do at length in your story; only you can tell what’s of real relevance, or real interest. The story will make certain demands on you, but after all, you are the one who’s writing the story.

There are in fiction a million ways to do everything, but the important thing is that they be done. What’s important in the story (to the story) must be emphasized and played out. What is unimportant must be briefly summarized, or skipped entirely, so as to permit full dramatic rendering of what is of consequence.

Be A NovelistUnimportant Opening Scene

When I wrote the first draft of my teen novel, Flower in the Hills, I set the opening scenes with Latina in her final days of the school year at her high school back home. At the time, I felt it was necessary for the reader to see her in her school setting as she interacted with friends and made plans for the upcoming summer vacation.

While that was interesting to me, it was not relevant to the story. I soon learned (with the assistance of good editors) that I was merely writing backstory and getting to know Latina.

The final rendition of the novel opens with the scene of Latina growing extremely carsick as she rides in the back seat of the family car while her father navigates the hairpin curves of the Missouri Ozarks. Now that was relevant.

Be Aware

For the beginning writer, it’s best not to be too concerned by the difference between interesting scenes and relevant scenes. It’s enough to be aware. On the first draft simply throw out all restraints and write. Work to get the story out of you and onto the paper (computer screen).

Be Courageous Be A Novelist

Once the first draft is completed, now the time comes to buck up and be strong and courageous enough to 1) discern the unimportant scenes, and 2) mercilessly edit them out.

If you’re planning to be your own editor, this process is even more crucial to the novel’s success.

What Works for You?

If you’ve come upon a process to be the judge of your own work (deciding which scenes are relevant, and which are simply interesting), please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Be A Novelist

Be A Novelist

Be A NovelistThe Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection now has three 3 available titles.

These clean teen reads, while authored in the past, offer timeless story lines that teens love.


Be A Novelist