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11 Ways to Save your Story from Plot Problems
It is common to finish the first draft and realize during the editing process that something about the plot isn't just right. Sometimes, writers have had to rewrite their stories to fix this problem. There is no easy route to repairing a defective plot, but here are eleven common plot problems and how to correct them without rewriting your story.
1. Boring Scenes
Maybe your scenes are just boring. This is often because nothing unusual occurs in them, nothing to grab the reader's attention. Here, you need to make a scene more compelling by thinking of crazy scenarios that could arise from it. Come up with as many scenario ideas as possible. You won’t use most of these ideas, but amidst them would be one that works for your story and makes it more intriguing.
2. Superficial Plot
Sometimes, writers are too busy with the flowery aspects of a story that they forget what really matters. A plot may contain metaphors, witty dialogues, symbolism, and beautiful descriptions but lacks substance. What does the outcome mean to the characters? How do the characters develop? What is the deeper meaning behind the story? Don’t forget to let questions like these guide you in editing a superficial plot.
3. Unintentional Imitation
Your plot may suffer from unintentional imitation. It happens when your story looks quite like another story or movie. In this case, you need to identify the similarities, take note of each of them, and try to change one or two elements in yours to differentiate them from the look-alike.
4. Predictable Plot Points
Another condition a plot may suffer from is predictability. This is often the case when you use plot points that have been overused in the world of storytelling. Here, you need to change these cliched plot points, give them a different spin that makes them look fresh and unique. Predictability could also result from offering too much prior information that foretells a plot point. Here, try not to give too much away and create more elements of surprise.
5. Excessive Subplots
If you notice your story has so many subplots, that could be a problem because it makes your plot overly complex. You need to make a list of all the subplots in your story and weed out any that are not necessary. Only very essential subplots should be allowed back into your narrative.
6. Illogical Sequencing
Plot outline may start to show that the sequence is wrong when you begin the writing process. You may notice that some scenes make little sense in the light of the scenes before or after them. Here, you need to rearrange your sequence. A practical approach is to summarize each act into a shuffle card and arrange each card in a progression that makes sense for your story.
7. Unbelievable Plot Points
Believability is very important in fiction, but sometimes a plot point may be difficult for readers to wrap their heads around. This is because the writer has not prepared them for such an outcome. Make the changes, events, and actions in your story plausible by creating a likelihood for them earlier in the narrative. This way, readers are ready for them when they occur.
8. Too Fast-paced Plot
Sometimes an action thriller could be too fast-paced. Your readers need to catch their breath, and you need to provide them with moments where there is a pause in the action. It could be a conversation, introspection, mealtime, or passage summaries amidst the shootouts and confrontations. Try to insert these downtimes in your fast-paced story.
9. Complicated Plot
An overly complex plot could be your plot problem. Here your story is ladened with too much explaining and unnecessary scenes that need to be trimmed. Your hero may not need more than two motivations for his actions. Two scenes could be merged into one. Try to summarize all the parts of your story, note parts that require longer explanations, and try to simplify them. Remember, simplicity doesn’t make your plot any less clever.
10. A Weak Story Premise
You may have noticed that the premise on which your story is based is weak. It may not arouse enough curiosity in readers or drive the story forward. Here, make a list of the things affecting your premise. It could be a weak, uninteresting character. The obstacle before the protagonist is not big enough. Or his goal is not compelling enough. When you have made this list, strengthen these necessary elements affecting your premise.
11. An Unsatisfying Conclusion
Also, the conclusion of your story could be a problem if it is unsatisfying. Here, you may need to create more suspense before the denouement. If it is a mystery, you may need a clearer answer. Whatever your conclusion is lacking, add more of it to the story to make it more satisfying.
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Frank Stephen