Complicated In A Simple Sort Of Way – 5 Tips To Make Your Plot More Complex

Have you ever tried to assemble a toy for your child from their birthday or Christmas presents? Seriously, the joke is on us parents.

It’s as if it were an contest to see who will win, the manufacturer, the parent, or the directions in another language. Talk about complicated.

Thankfully, my hubby is brilliant with assembly or my children would be destined to go through life with toys that require no assembly.

When my husband gets done putting it together, I just sit back and shake my head. How can something so complicated look so simple?

Writing our books we could learn a few things from the manufacturer of toys. How to make things complicated in a simple sort of way.

Sometimes our plots are too straight forward. They lack ingenuity and are highly predictable. Yet, readers crave unpredictable plots because they want to be surprised.

5 Tips To Make Your Plot More Complex:

1. Weaving Threads. Take a simple ending and pull backwards and outwards to create threads that all weave together. Make 4 unseemingly related crimes thread back to one criminal. Make 3 characters who avoid one another end up in the same room at the end. A great example of using threads is in Brandilyn Collins book Gone To Ground.

2. Add an Unexpected Villain. In all genres we can create a villain that stands in the way of our characters and makes it difficult for them to reach their goal. It makes the character’s life complicated and provides opportunity for the unpredictable.

3. Add Deeper POV Scenes For Your Characters. Add layers to your characters and richness to the plot. Tips can be found in Susan May Warren’s Deep And Wide and Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View.

4. Create A Diversion To The Truth. If you are solving a crime, have the body originate from a different place not just moved in the trunk of a car. If you are writing a love story, distract them from their time together with something else that complicates the plot like a sick family member, a run away sibling, etc.

5. Add A Subplot. This works in longer length novels, but not shorter ones. Add a subplot that strengthens the main plot and feeds back into it. This can deepen the spiritual thread and open the door for supporting characters to add flavor to your novel.

What are some ways you use to make your plot more complex? OR What trick have your seen an author use that you are reading?


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.

10 thoughts on “Complicated In A Simple Sort Of Way – 5 Tips To Make Your Plot More Complex

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I’ve got a new story percolating. An idea hit me in church a few weeks ago and so far I’m writing down thoughts.
    You’ve given me a great idea on subplots.

    I love Brandilyn’s Gone to Ground. She made it so believable, I could picture the scenes so clearly and kept trying to figure out who did it.
    I also loved the she wove some humor into her story.

    Thanks so much for sharing today!


  2. bethkvogt says:

    Good subplots and layers add complexity, as does humor (agreeing with Jackie Layton!)

  3. Michelle Lim says:

    Humor is another great way to add that complexity. Thanks, Beth.

  4. Don’t the best ideas hit in church! Sometimes I add the villain’s POV, or in the case of my current wip, have the person targeted as the victim be a red herring. Someone else is actually the victim. Maybe

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    I always feel a dash of guilt as I have an idea for murdering a character in church….must be all of those Old Testament Battles. Great suggestions, Pat!

  6. Lisa Jordan says:

    Setting is a great way to add a complication to the plot too. Maybe a soldier on limited leave is trying to get home for his wedding and the weather won’t cooperate–tropical storm, fire, snow, etc. Using environmental elements can be paralleled with the character’s current state of mind too.

  7. Melissa Tagg says:

    Yay for everybody who said humor! 🙂 Also, I remember at one of the MBT Retreats listening to Rachel Hauck talk about adding tension even in the lives of side characters–for instance, she had a minor character who was having car troubles. It was a little thing, but it deepened that character and added to the plot…

    I can’t recommend the MBT Deep and Wide workbook enough for adding complexity to a plot!

    Oh, I also think the setting of a book can really add to the complexity as well!

  8. Michelle Lim says:

    Great input, Melissa! Thanks for sharing.

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