How to Craft an Engaging Plot: 7 Tips for Success

Learning how to plot a novel is essential to creating a captivating story. The art of designing a compelling plot lies in understanding the elements that make it great. In this article, we will explore seven effective tips for plotting a story that will keep readers hooked from the very first chapter.

First: Decoding the Essence of ‘Plot’

E.M. Forster, a renowned British author, once described a plot as “a narrative of events arranged in sequence.” It is the arrangement of these events that showcases cause and effect. Forster explains further: “The king died and then the queen died” is a story, whereas “The king died and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. A plot comprises the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of a story, interweaving multiple elements into a coherent chain.

1. Understand the Hallmarks of a Great Plot

To ensure a successful plot, it’s helpful to keep a list of essential elements in mind while writing. These elements serve as reminders of what your story needs. Here are a few to consider:

  • Create curiosity and raise questions that readers want answers to.
  • Show cohesion between different parts of the story, connecting them thematically.
  • Maintain internal logic within your story world.
  • Avoid clich├ęs and strive to surprise your readers.
  • Provide readers with a worthwhile investment of their time and effort.

2. Create Structured Plot Outlines

While not every writer plots by default, creating a plot outline can be immensely helpful. If you find yourself getting stuck during the drafting process, a plot outline allows you to step back and gain a broader view of your narrative. It helps you see how everything might fit together seamlessly.

Start by extending your story idea and exploring the cause and effect that drives your plot. For example, if we expand upon Forster’s plot example of “the queen is dead,” we might consider the power struggle for succession between the queen’s two elder sisters, leading to a conflict triangle with the heir to the throne.

3. Plan Illustrative, Interesting Subplots

While the main plot drives the story, incorporating subplots adds depth and complexity. Subplots shed light on the main themes and events, giving readers a more detailed narrative. For example, you could introduce a subplot revolving around a close confidant of the queen whose future becomes uncertain upon her death. This subplot would illustrate the complexities of friendship and familial struggles.

When crafting subplots, ensure they are relevant to the main narrative, furthering understanding or developing crucial plot points without causing unnecessary confusion or distraction.

4. Make Every Character Want Something and Pursue It

As Kurt Vonnegut famously said, each character in your novel should have a desire, even if it’s as simple as wanting a glass of water. Character motivation is vital for effective plotting. Clear character motivations drive major story events and subplots. When introducing a character, always consider their purpose in the story, creating concrete and purposeful individuals.

5. Plot Each Scene’s Purpose Before You Start

When writing a novel, you must consider both the broader story arcs and the individual scenes and chapters. Before diving into a scene, identify its purpose within the wider story. Knowing why a scene is included helps maintain focus and narrative drive. Understanding the scene’s purpose also reduces the likelihood of meandering and aids in future revisions.

6. Plot Characters, Events, and Settings with Equal Care

To create a well-rounded novel, dedicate equal attention to all aspects of your storytelling. Develop your characters, ensuring their motivations and personalities are clear. Craft a plot that allows readers to make informed guesses about its direction. Additionally, ensure that changes occur logically within your characters and settings as the story unfolds.

7. Use Your Plot Outline as a Guide, Not a Rigid Structure

While a plot outline provides structure and prevents writer’s block, it should remain flexible. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your original outline if your story takes an unexpected turn. Allow your characters to guide you and make changes to your outline accordingly. Recording these alterations and your reasons for them will help maintain clarity and save time during revisions.

Now that you have learned these seven tips for successful plotting, it’s time to put them into practice. Visit and start your writing journey using our easy, step-by-step outlining process.

Remember, crafting a captivating plot requires dedication and creativity, but with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a truly engaging story that will captivate readers until the very last page.