Friday, November 4, 2011

Help for the Beginnings, Middles and Endings

As I am rewriting Book 1 of my MG Paranormal Trilogy and also planning book 2 and 3, I find myself turning more and more to one of my favourite writing craft books: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

I am sharing a few things Bell suggests.


The first task of your beginning is to hook the reader.

 Use great opening lines, teasers, attitude, story frames or prologues to grab the reader.

 Watch out for dull exposition at the beginning. Act first; explain later.  


 The strongest plots have a sense of death hovering over the head. This can be physical death, psychological death or professional death.

Adhesive holds the lead and opposition together. If the lead can solve the problem simply by resigning from the action, the reader will wonder why he doesn’t do so.

Duty is often the adhesive. A professional duty ( as in a cop solving a case) or a moral duty ( as in a mother fighting to save her child). Physical location can be an adhesive, where it is impossible for a character to leave a place.

The fundamental rhythm of a novel is action, reaction, more action (ARM). You can control the pace by how you control the beats.

Raise the stakes throughout the middle portion of the novel. Stakes can relate to plot, character and society.


There are three basic types of endings: the lead gets his objective; the lead loses his objective; or we don’t know if the lead gets it.

The lead can gain his objective, but with a negative result attached;or he can lose his objective with some positive result.

Sacrifice is a powerful element in many endings.

Some endings focus on the final battle the Lead must fight. Others focus on the final choice the lead must make.

Keeping all these pointers in mind sure does help in plot points. Do you all have any favourite writing craft book that you frequently refer to? How do you all plot your books? Any pointers for me to help me plot better?


  1. Excellent advice. Keeping the middle interesting is my biggest problem. Thanks for the tips.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  2. Rachna- I feel that I am blessed to follow your blog as you have such wonderful advice for people like me, that I wait for your blogs with a bated breath!Thank You!

  3. Great tips!

    I'll definitely keep them in mind as I write my NaNoWriMo project.

  4. These were great tips. I am going to have to get Bell's book, because I keep hearing about it. Like Mooderino, sometimes my plot starts bogging down in the middle. I find if I really know how it's going to end I have an easier time working toward that ending.

  5. Wow, rad breakdown here! I'll have to study this more in depth. I've reached similar conclusions before, but used different words. Thanks for the great post:)

  6. @ middle too tends to go into a slump. I have realized that introducing new characters helps in perking reader interest.

    @ Rahul..thanks for your sweet words. This book is really very helpful and I am often referring to it as I plot my trilogy.

    @ Misha...I hope the post will be of some help to you for NaNo.

    @ you, I too like to get my ending absolutely clear, that way I can direct the middle portion of my Manuscript towards that ending.

    @ Mark..I hope this will help me get atleast the basic plot points of the 3 books I am planning in place.

  7. Some things I flesh out when I prepare my story outlines. Heroes, Villains, Helpers, Ordinary world, and Extraordinary world.

    After I have these down, it all falls into place. Start at home or with a hook. Transition from Ordinary to Extraordinary, Hero's adventure starts and usually has a mentor of some sort. Try/fails. Despair. Overcome obstacle. Triumph.

  8. It took so long for me to learn many of these concepts Rachna, and here you are with all the answers!

  9. Middles can be so wonderful if we don't bog our readers down. That is where betas come in handy.

    Wonderful advice, Rachna.

  10. I was privileged to hear Mr. Bell speak last year. He's wonderful. This book is great, though I confess, my favorites are more on the editing, than on the writing end. That could because I love the editing process, whereas the writing process is painful for me. I loved Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel and 38 Mistakes Writers Make was also really helpful.

  11. I'm careful about my middles since they used to sag.

    I loved your explanation about the three novel parts.

    Happy writing (or re-writing).

  12. Thanks for this post. Is full of great advice for beginners like us.

  13. Great pointers! Thanks for sharing. I need those right now since I'm doing Nano and slowly shaping my novel.

  14. This book sounds great Rachna. I planned my current WIP using the Snowflake method. I'm actually finding it really liberating. When I planned it ages ago, I made more detailed notes for the scenes that are not my strength, but when it came to action scenes the notes are pretty light and I can pants away. At the same time having done such a detailed plan, I'm pleased to say that I seem to be ticking Bell's boxes. PHEW.

  15. Nice post.. For me the ends are always the hardest part..I run out of steam and things to say. Have you read Stephen King's On writing?

  16. Useful tips, Rachna. I like Story Engineering. It's kinda dense, but the information is very, very helpful.

  17. I do love James Scott Bell's books on writing. He has great advice.

  18. He has such great advice! Thanks for the refresher!