Want to write a novel? There’s a very simple formula for a successful one. It has five essential plot elements. Give your readers a hero with a compelling personality and a desperate goal. Confront him/her with insurmountable odds. Don't love your hero so much that you can't bear to let him/her suffer - it's best to make achievement of the goal nearly impossible. Make the consequences of failure unthinkable but the path to success daunting and full of unexpected obstacles. Let the success be achieved at a heavy price, almost too much to bear. And give your reader twists to the plot without disrespecting them or the integrity of your characters. The final denouement ought to include surprises.
The basic formula for everything from a novel down to a bit of flash fiction, in a single sentence, looks like this:
"When <1. our hero> experiences <2. stimulus> they must < 3. overcome problem> in order to achieve <4. desired goal> or <5. face consequences>."
Here's how this formula translates into specifics for my seven-volume novel series entitled ‘Eden's Womb’ (which you can read write here on this blog):
“When <1. the reluctant clairvoyant Adam BrownEarth> encounters <2. the Strongmother Naja, mother of the universe>, she < 3. launches him on an epic quest> to <4. fulfill her mysterious obsession and to rescue humanity and the universe itself> from <5. imminent extinction.>”
A novel as long and complex as 'Eden's Womb' can interweave several such story lines. Each character can have their own distinctive one. Here's the over-arching one for most of the human characters:
... ... "When <1. Human kind> faces an array of <2. Hostile post-human species> they must < 3. Find and raise up their Last Messiah> in order to <4. Fulfill End-Time prophecy of immortality in a New Heaven and New Earth> or <5. Face annihilation, utter extinction, and the eternal wrath of the Strongmother Naja>."
I think it's a minimum requirement for an 'interesting' character (as opposed to a cardboard-cut-out of one) to have this sort of story-arc underlying their lives. After all, don't we all, here in this nasty, confusing real world?
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