Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Checklists for Novels - Part 2 of 3 - Deepening Plot and Structure

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! And isn't it a grand day! The sun is shining and words are everywhere for the grasping. Today, I'm continuing my printable checklists and taking the plot and structure lists from yesterday a bit further. No pens and notebooks. Just bring your mouse and printer, please. Let's get going!

Deepening Plot:
  • Does my protagonist have a goal?
  • What is that goal and why does it matter (who cares scenario)?
  • When do I introduce the doorway of no return (should be in the first 1/4 of the novel)?
  • Is my antagonist evil/bad enough?
  • What's the relationship between my protagonist and my antagonist?
  • Is it strong enough to warrant their continued angst? Why?
  • What does my protagonist believe in deeply?
  • How does that change?
  • Did I make the change believable?
  • What opinions did I alter to garner a change of core beliefs?
  • Is there a sub-plot?
  • If yes, could the sub-plot stand on its own?
  • What was the reason for it?
  • Can I take it out and keep the suspense/action going just as well?
  • When I lay my plot out, does it flow in a linear fashion?

Deepening Structure:
  • The Beginning
  1. Have I shown the protagonist's world in enough detail so the reader understands the rules?
  2. How did I do that?
  3. Is the protagonist directly involved in creating or upholding those rules?
  4. How so?
  5. Do I have a dynamite opening line?
  6. Is my prologue necessary?
  7. Action first?
  8. If no, how can I rearrange the story so explanation comes later?
  • The Middle
  1. Is there a sense of death hanging over my protagonist's head (physical, emotional, professional, or psychological)?
  2. Could my protagonist simply walk away from the conflict and lose nothing (this should be a no)?
  3. Why?
  4. Is there plenty of action, reaction, and more action going on?
  5. Are my stakes high enough?
  6. What can I (or did I) do to raise them?
  7. How did I set up the final battle or show that it's coming?
  • The End
  1. Did I answer all the questions I brought up in my reader's mind during the tale?
  2. Is my ending a knockout, that'll leave my reader breathless or scratching their head?
  3. Was my ending predictable?
  4. What kind of ending do I have (objective reached, objective lost, or dangling)?
  5. How did I set that up?

If you can answer all these questions without a second thought, your novel is very well built. These aren't checklists for when you're starting to write. They're for the final product. It'll help you spot holes you need to fill.

Remember, feel free to print these out or save them as you wish. If you want to share them, I'll be putting up a PDF tomorrow of all six together. All I ask is that you don't alter them in any way if you redistribute on your own site.

Tomorrow, a checklist for scenes, dialogue, and complexity and one on character. Be sure and come on back for those!

Are these lists something you've done in the past; or, is this all new to you?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. I just finished my first draft of my last Second Sight book and this was a great checklist to reference. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Heather! I'm glad it helped you out in some way. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, hon! :)


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