Your bad guy hides behind Prada and a smooth personality. His car has leather seats. He whips out his Platinum card with the carelessness of one who doesn’t have to worry how much he charges to it.
And he has captured your Main Character’s eye.
She has a choice between the flashy guy who “knows how to treat a woman” and a plain ol’ blue-jeans clad country boy whose actions can be misinterpreted to put him in the worst light possible. He has a certain charm, but in your MC’s eyes, he’s the bad guy.
Wow. That’s the makings of a good story.
But it’s also a delicate balance. As the story goes along, we, the readers, learn the true nature of each man, and before long, we’re on the edge of our seats as our heroine consistently makes the wrong choice. The writer always lets us into her mind, always shows how she reaches her conclusions, always puts the good guy in compromising positions that confirm her opinion of him.
After a while, though, it’s time to start showing her doubt of her choices, otherwise we, the readers, start getting seriously frustrated with the woman.
Soon after the midpoint, she needs to start getting niggling little doubts that increase beyond a “niggle” by the three quarter point. By this time, she should be in deep, completely entangled with the wrong guy, so the last quarter of the book leads to the nail-gnawing climax and satisfying conclusion.
If the writer doesn’t increase those doubts, the readers form the idea the MC gets what she deserves for being so dimwitted. Nobody can be that bad a judge of character, right?Surely she can figure this out by now! C’mon lady! Ya gotta be kiddin’ me!!!
Timing is everything in novel writing, which is one reason why there are so many books on structure in existence. Readers expect certain things to happen at certain times, whether they realize it or not. By midpoint, it’s time to move from set-up to the next phase–in this case, the dawning on the character that maybe she’s wrong in her choices and opinions, which slides neatly in to the idea that her being wrong all this time has put her in danger.
Outline your novel to follow a structure, or at the very least keep structure in mind when you write. Quarter point, half point, three-quarter point, climax, end–know what should happen in each phase. There are tons of books out there that teach this. One of the best is K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel. If you know what’s supposed to happen when, you won’t have your readers yelling at your characters.
I have a question…yes, leave it to me. As a writer, I understand that certain things should develop or start to develop at certain times. As a reader (not to mention, a big crime drama watcher), don’t you think that some writers stick to structure so closely that the entire story becomes predictable? I want my readers to be surprised once in a while. Why should the heorine fall for the good country boy and not the bad guy? It would show her stupidity if she really is dumb or, at least, setup a 2nd book. 🙂
Nora, I’m with you 100% about wanting to surprise the reader, but the surprise doesn’t come in the structure of the novel, but the content. If you don’t want your MC to fall for the good guy, let her fall for the bad boy. That’s your choice–and it’s presented in the context.
Here’s another post similar to this one that may help: https://lindayezak.com/2013/10/02/novel-starts-and-stops/
I begin to understand more about this. I guess I just write from the gut so much that I don’t notice. I do try, however, to start and end the story appropriately. Perhaps this is why I tend to write short stories and novellas. Just know that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end does help though. I think I need to re-read KM’s book.
God bless you in your efforts for HIM
Thanks, Nora. I “write from the gut” too, but having an idea about structure helps create a cohesive story. If Katie’s book didn’t help, try Larry Brooks’s *Story Engineering* or James Scott Bell’s *Plot and Structure.*
Hope this helps!
I was applauding throughout this post (but especially when I got to the last paragraph 😉 ). Stupid characters drive me nuts, and the thing is: the author often doesn’t *intend* for them to be stupid.
They drive me nuts too, and I don’t think it’s always a characterization thing. In this case, I really believe it’s a structure thing. And I can’t think of structure without thinking of your book. 😉
I have Plot and Structure…now, ask me if I’ve read it through. 🙂
Hmmm. Don’t have to ask. I can guess. 😀
All great points, Linda. All art has structure, regardless of the venue. The creativity comes to play in the flesh that goes over the structure. And I do love Katie’s book. Read it front to back, several times, and I’m sure I’ll be reading it again. 🙂
I bet she’d be tickled to know that! Thanks, Ceci!
Great post, Linda. I can tell if I’m doing it right or not. If I get bored with my own story, somethings wrong! And I always have an idea of the points you made before starting a story, “at the very least keep structure in mind when you write. Quarter point, half point, three-quarter point, climax, end–know what should happen in each phase.”
Kellen’s Hope is getting 5 stars from my readers, so I guess I did it right!
Exciting, Danie! Congrats on the great reviews!