4 Plot Fails That Will Ruin Your Novel

I almost destroyed my book yesterday. I was at the last 15k, and I was writing a confrontation between two important characters. One of them, the lesser character, made a sudden claim, in an effort to diffuse the conflict, and for a moment, my writer brain went, “Oh no! That will destroy the story!”

So the lesser character was lying, and the story remains intact.

Fringe was a great show for about three seasons. Then the writers broke the story, and the show got worse and worse until the dribbled out finale, where all the plotting and amazingness in the first three seasons was obliterated and shat upon.

Here are some basic Don’ts for keeping integrity in your plot.

1.If a character is important, don’t yank the rug out and let it all be a lie at the last second. That makes the readers feel like they’ve been played . . . because you played them. And no one wants to feel like a fool, particularly when they’re spending time and/or money to relax and be entertained.

2. Love must be real; all stories that piss on true love are crappy stories, and will turn off many, if not all, of your readers. I don’t care what people say, in their hearts, all humans believe in the power of true love. Don’t break true love, and don’t dandy it about lightly. That means, if you have two characters who truly love each other, they must end up either dead, or together forever. There are no exceptions to this rule.

3. Bad guys never turn into good guys; never, never, ever do people change on a dime into a glorified and ass-kicking father Christmas in black leather. It doesn’t happen. Good people are often cluttered up on the surface with black leather and violence, but they are still good people. Bad people are often covered over in saintliness and shiny hair, but they are still bad people. Do not pull an inner transformation on your readers; it’s a cheap trick and it doesn’t work.

4. Never, ever, ever end with a cliff hanger. Cliff hangers piss people off pretty unilaterally; the only reason to use a cliff hanger is when you’re writing the end of a chapter within the book. Cliff hanger endings disrupt the reader’s day, and leave a bad taste and a lot of unfinished emotional business in their minds. These endings are disruptive. You can end with massive tension, but you have to resolve all the important plot questions that you raised within the story.

Happy writing, people.

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