The Plot Thickens: Or Does It?

At my house yesterday, a batch of Easter shaped Jello Jigglers brought on bout of giggling. Their wiggles are something kids understand, but it is fun to watch your food move…sometimes.

So, how do you make jigglers? For those of you who don’t know, you increase the ratio of the mix to water. The result is a delightful half hour of yum and fun.

Yes, we can learn something from Jello Jigglers. Really, I’m not kidding. You see, as writers to avoid the sagging middle we need to add a greater ratio of plot threads to  the story line in our novel.

In Act One of your story, you set up the story question, the inciting incident that sends the character on their journey to achieve something specific and the change that needs to occur in your character. If you go into act 2 and plot in a straight line forward, without thickening the threads it will sag.

How do I thicken the plot threads in my story to eliminate Act 2 Sag Disaster?

Think of your plot as a tree. The main plot is the trunk. This trunk is solid and the basis for everything else that will occur in the book. You establish the tree trunk in ACT One.

An example of a basic main plot:      Darren is trying to arrest a drug cartel’s leader and put him in jail.

That would be our trunk. Now, all of the threads that come to the story are branches out from the trunk. They impact the story line and add more room for questions and conflict.

Here are some possibilities:

*Darren’s little sister died of an overdose from one of the drug cartel’s drug shipments.

*Darren’s childhood best friend is a runner for the cartel. He doesn’t want him arrested. Tries to get him out without compromising the charges against the leader.

*Darren used to have a drug addiction. Being around the drugs makes it hard for him to stay clean.

*The drug cartel funds a homeless project in his town. He is getting lots of local pressure to back off, because that project cannot afford to lose money.

Those are all examples of main branches that come out from the trunk. Now, if you look at a tree you will notice that those branches have smaller branches off of them.

When you are part way into Act 2, you should add some primary branches like the example above. Then, a bit further into act two you should add some secondary branches.

Based on our basic main plot, here are some examples:

*Darren’s little sister was targeted to get him to back off. He is the reason she is dead.

*Darren’s best friend wants to get out, but he is addicted to drugs himself.

*Darren attends more of the recovery group at church to keep him from slipping back into his old habit. He meets a girl there who used to be a runner for the cartel. He gets information from her.

*Darren fights to make the plight of addiction in his town more vivid, more important to the community. So they can see that despite the cartel’s money, they are destroying the community.

You can keep adding branches from there to add in plot threads. Once in a while another tree or electricity line touches the branches and they interact. This is like peripheral plot, it comes in from the outside to fuel your plot.

A few examples:

*There is a missing persons report out on a girl about his sister’s age who was known to be a low level runner for the gang.

*A henchman has been ordered to take out his friend. He has to get him into protective custody and somehow talk him into going into rehab.

Does your plot thicken to avoid the middle sag? What are some other threads we could put into Darren’s story?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

11 thoughts on “The Plot Thickens: Or Does It?

  1. Enjoyed this post! Yes, I love layering those threads in my books. I just have to watch that I don’t have TOO MANY layers going–hard to compress that into a synopsis! Grin.

  2. Great examples, Michelle. Is this a book you’re working on? If not, I think I’ll claim this intriguing plot. lol
    What if Darren is pulled over for rolling through a stop sign and drugs are found in his car (put there by the drug cartel)

  3. When I start to get bored in the middle of writing a story, I throw in a new POV. Example: you could write a scene from the henchman’s POV as he’s stalking Darren.

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    Great idea, Michelle! I love multiple POVs. One of the reasons I like the longer novel…I get to have a subplot.

  5. jeannemt says:

    Great post, Michelle! I love the tree analogy to keep a middle from sagging. 🙂 Gonna be thinking on my story to see what branches can be added to keep the story moving along. 🙂

  6. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks, Jeanne! Keep up the good work on your story.

  7. Giora says:

    I’ll make Darren falling in love with the sister of the drug cartel’s leader .. and she’s loyal to her brother, but also in love with Darrel.
    And, Michelle, after reading your many posts about tips how to write a novel, let me suggest to consider adding all the posts with the pictures into a non-fiction book of “Tips for Writing a Novel.” Best wishes to you and your family.

  8. Michelle Lim says:

    Thank you so much, Giora for the kind words! Love your plot idea!

  9. […] Escalate the conflict in your novel to keep the tension growing. Each thing is going to make it worse for your […]

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