One common thread found weaved through successful novels, both those critically and commercially acclaimed, is a little used word in writing – consequence.
Here’s an exercise to try. Name five novels you like. Identify what the characters did or did not do that was important in the story and plot. Define what happened as a result. In most cases, you’ll find that these consequences are what drives the tension in the work.
I believe focusing on consequence is a good way to help develop and improve story/and or/plot in any work you are considering. Look at the cascade effect consequence has on other characters and you’re on the way to succinctly fleshing out your project. It will help you write with more depth and keep the fictional souls you create relevant and realistic.
Three of my favorite writers do this, whether purposely, or within their personal writing regimen. Here are three books where consequence is vital and their authors who build consequence in their novels. I recommend you read At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, The Snow Concerto by Virginia Crane, and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. All are great reads and will add to your craft level if you choose to study them.
Sure, you write consequences into your novel. You can’t avoid it. Even Jerry Seinfeld, who said his sitcom was “about nothing,” had consequences in every show.
Focusing on consequences focuses you writing on the heart of your story.
Many books I read, fumble their way toward telling the effects of their characters actions, often wasting verbiage that simply doesn’t advance the story. Focusing on consequence will tighten your writing and make it more powerful.
A note in closing – I’ll be at the On Point Book Fair at West Shore Plaza in Tampa Florida this Saturday from 10AM until 9PM. That’s long! But, I’ll be there.
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