Tips To Identify A Vanilla Plot – Hot Or Not?

Spicy foods and I have a longstanding relationship of unrequited love. See, my husband loves spicy foods, even if it burns his throat all the way down. It’s amazing he is still able to talk and breathe. There is nothing too spicy for him.

Me, on the other hand, I loathe spicy. As you can imagine this brings about some mischievous opportunities for my husband to slip a bit of spicy into my food. Don’t even mention the word wasabi.

I don’t like bland either. The whole vanilla frenzy never was my thing. Most of us like more flavor in what we eat. Readers are much the same about what they read. Vanilla can put them to sleep or even inspire them to find a better novel, discarding ours altogether.

In novels a vanilla plot is basically a story that may have been done before, or is so straight forward that it lacks the unexpected surprises readers love. Our stories need to have a spicy hot plot that keeps the reader guessing.

Tips To Identify A Vanilla Plot:

*Investigate the Market. If there are several books out there that are similar to yours, yours must have a big variation, or it runs the risk of being vanilla.

*No critique buddy surprises. When you are working on your novel, you should be asking your critique buddies if anything surprises them in what they’ve read. If not, you are running the risk of a vanilla plot.

*You aren’t excited about what you’ve written. If a writer is not excited about what they have written, who else is going to be? Probably no one. Lack of enthusiasm flows through your words onto the page.

*Predictable character decisions. Write down the major dilemmas that your hero or heroine have had to face. Then write down the decision of action they took. Poll your friends and see what they think is going to happen next with the character. If they can guess, you might want to change it up a bit. Especially, if they can guess them all.

*Nothing new to you in the story. Readers love to find out some new detail about something they didn’t know before. If you have nothing like this in your novel, you run the risk of being vanilla.

*If by reading the basic premise, your critique buddy already knows where it will end. In a romance, we know that the leads will end up together, but there should be some other unexpected journey pieces that land them at the happily ever after. If you don’t have a surprise ending, then you’d better have a surprising journey.

What makes you decide that a book is going to be boring?


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.

4 thoughts on “Tips To Identify A Vanilla Plot – Hot Or Not?

  1. A book is boring when it starts out with passive verbs on the first page. Or there’s no hook and no stakes. Great post, Michelle.

  2. JillKemerer says:

    Love this, Michelle! Timely for me since I’m plotting today–yeehaw!

  3. Gail Johnson says:

    Enjoyed this, Michelle.

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