Writing an Authentic Plot
One of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes is, “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard, and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
Of course, Neil is talking about writing in general, but the same can be said for authenticity. It’s both as easy and as difficult as writing from the heart, letting pieces of yourself drip onto the page. Sometimes this means that the words don’t sound perfect the first time around, and that’s okay. Revisions are a natural part of the process.
Authenticity isn’t necessarily a writing technique, but a mindset you bear in mind through every stage of your writing process, especially your plot. This means both writing from the heart and writing a plot true to your chosen genre and characters.
One way to achieve this is to do your research. This is especially true if you use real landmarks or places in your settings and plot. Your readers will know if the descriptions or happenings of that location are based in reality. Research is a pivotal piece of writing an authentic plot. If you want to know more, check out last week’s blog on authenticity and research.
A second way to maintain authenticity is to keep your plot within-genre. While this sounds surprisingly simple, you’d be shocked at how many writers commit this faux-pa. If you’re writing a romance novel and feel the need to spice up the plot halfway through, suddenly adding a potion or magic spell is a quick way to turn off your readers. This is even truer of fantasy and science fiction novels. Though Guardians of the Galaxy consists of bizarre and outlandish things, there is no mention of vampires or witches. (Even Scarlet Witch derives her powers from her mutant-nature, not from actual witchcraft). Staying true to your genre means staying away from low-hanging fruit that might add a layer of interest at the cost of an authentic plot.
Character agreement is another key aspect of authentic plots. With the exception of writing character arcs (where narcissism turns to selflessness or fear turns to bravery), writing a plot means having a deep understanding of the complexities of your characters. It’s okay to put them in any situation, but if the choice they make in that situation is either not aligned with their personality or poorly timed, it’s a quick way for a reader to set your book down. Consider writing strong backstories or detailed story arcs for your characters before you write them into the novel. This will serve as a good reference point as you continue to align your characters with your plot’s flow.
A final piece of advice is to avoid writing for the wrong audience. While your target audience is important to keep in mind while writing, writing for a perceived panel of critics can result in writer’s block, or worse, an overcomplicated plot. Do your research and stay true to your story and characters. You’ll find yourself with a plot that feels truly authentic and engaging.