What are the basic components of a good story?
Many authors and writers have different ideas on this. I make reference to Vogler’s The Character’s Journey and Morgan Hawke’s Cheater’s Guide to Erotic Romance Novellas.
Depending on if you’re writing a one or two main character story, that will decide how long and what kind of components you’ll have.
For a one person story, my story and characters are usually run like this-
Intro to a crisis. – This is what starts the action of placing the character in motion and sets the plot in motion.
First test/trial – Normally, the hero/heroine faces their first obstacle – usually physical with a slight nod of the internal conflicts. Normally I have them fail with a slight success to balance them enough to keep going.
Twist to the Second Test. – This is usually internal conflict caused by external factors. This is a good place for a couple of red herrings, a few attempts to try to do something (and somewhat succeed). Normally this is where I have the characters begin questioning why they’re acting/reacting in certain ways. This also begin some resolution, though it’s not fully actualized in the mind.
1st Major Change/Semi-resolution – At this point we’re about halfway through our story. At this point, I toss the character into a point where external & internal conflicts collide. Why? Sagging middles are not good. By forcing the characters to face a mini version of what’s to come, you give the characters a chance to step up using the new techniques and resolutions. Depending on the genre of the story – the character fails completely, at least for me. Why? The lessons learned so far aren’t easy to do when they’re not natural. Thus at a crux point in the conflict, the old established beliefs hold say because the new beliefs aren’t helping. (Or so they think.)
Grief State – I call this the grief state because now comes the time where the character after losing a battle (& fearing he’ll lose the war) begins the process to truly change and face his internal conflicts. From anger, depression, bargaining, etc – the character will grieve until he’s resolute in his course.
Practicing while Turning – This time he hits either an internal or external or both and wins. It’s a major accomplishment and he feels he’s getting where he needs to be. This is where I, the author, give the character time to celebrate but then quickly move him to the hardest moment in his life.
The Black Moment – After being lulled a bit, this is where I throw the lot at the character. I do it without letting up and force choices – both good and bad. But the hero knows now, he’s learned and conquers this. Though he wins, he knows there’s always a price.
Resolution Station – Here we tidy loose ends, resolve the sadness of the bad part from the Black Moment, solve the mystery for others, etc. In the romance genre, we show the HEA or HFRN.
How does it work for TWO characters?
Just like above though you add a few more midpoints between the beginning & middle and the black moment. That allows you to overlap internal and external goals and conflicts and have each character’s growth be shown. So instead of 8 points you might have 10-12. This will also lengthen your story.
How many subplots should you have?
For very short stories, you often stick to one issue to be resolved – locked room mystery, falling in love, saving the universe.
As you increase the length, you add in internal and external goals/conflicts to deepen the main goal/conflict. Though they don’t have to seem related, these subplots should support the whole theme in some manner.
Also, you may set a short-term goal as a subplot.
Example – Saving the universe but while doing so the intrepid heroes must acquire a sacred object stolen in antiquity. By retrieving said object, the heroes gain an alliance that could help their main goal.
What if your main plot is weak, but you really want to use it? What do you do?
Think about making it a scene for a subplot. Or figure out the larger picture. Ask yourself questions to find out just what’s needed to make the story longer and more indepth. What is the theme of the story? Oooh, that alone is a new topic. One where we will pick up come next week.