5 Plot Ingredients for Writing an Engaging Novel

Posted on January 31, 2014


ImageWhen it comes to writing fiction, a good plot is vital to a good story. But how do you ensure that the plot you devise will intrigue your readers? What makes a “good” plot? Below I’ve listed five essential tools you can use to determine if your plot will keep your audience reading.

1.      Unpredictability

Every successful book contains a degree of mystery. This is because, for the most part, readers want to be held in suspense throughout a book. If they can predict the plot’s events—and especially the conclusion—too easily, then they have no reason to continue turning the pages. Of course, some elements may be predictable—for instance, readers generally anticipate that the hero and heroine of a romance novel will end up together—but even if the end result is clear, the means to this end should not be easily foreseen. Readers know that at the end of a mystery novel, the solution will be revealed, but they should not be able to easily solve the crime midway through the book. Keeping your readers guessing will keep them reading.

2.      Plausibility

Note that I did not use the word realistic here. After all, fantasy and science fictions books should not follow realistic plots because this lack of “realism” is part of their allure. However, every novel’s plot should be plausible or readers will become frustrated. Every world, every book, follows specific, if unspoken, “laws,” and if the author or the characters break these laws, the readers will be confused. For example, the plot should hold true to the genre of the book: a book that begins as a science fiction novel should not digress into a romance halfway through. The rules of your fantasy world should remain constant. The laws of “science”’ in your science fiction novel must be followed or readers will feel cheated. You cannot stretch and bend the laws of gravity at an unexpected point at the end of the book to overcome an obstacle if you could not have done so earlier in the book.

3.      Order

Although it has been said that there are no rules to novel writing, this is not entirely true. If you pick up a number of fiction books across all genres, you will notice a pattern with plot lines. Every book begins with a set of introductions: the characters, the setting, the conflict, etc. Next, obstacles grow more complicated and harder to overcome, and side conflicts can erupt or become entangled with the central problem. Finally, the struggle escalates into a great finale that resolves with an end to the conflict, for better or worse. What does this mean to you? No matter how original you want your book to be, your readers will have certain expectations from your book and will be disappointed if you do not meet them. There is a specific recipe for crafting a book plot, and if you rebel against the rules, your writing will be disorderly, random, and chaotic—a pointless series of events that holds no interest for readers.

4.      Originality

Although many say that “everything has been done before,” and while it is true that you have specific guidelines for your chosen genre and rules to follow for crafting a good plot, you still want to make your plot as original as possible. If you truly want to write a book that will bring you lasting success, do not simply choose a plot or topic because it is trending at the time. Fads will come and go.  Instead, write the book that speaks to your heart—the one that will have lasting significance. Do not copy great authors; dream up your own story, one with a personal touch that readers will respect and admire. Create something that you can take pride in as your own.

5.      Interest

Yes, you want a book that captures reader’s interest, or they won’t read it…and then, what’s the point? It is true that interest is a subjective topic when it comes to crafting plots, but there are still ways in which you can predict what will and what will not prove to be interesting to your audience. For example, make sure that your plot fits your genre and caters to what will capture your fans’ attention. What do your readers enjoy reading? Get to know your audience to learn what will engage them, but even more importantly, pursue your own interests. What do you enjoy reading? If you are excited and interested in your book, your passion will show forth and help you to produce something worth reading.

When it comes to forming plots for a novel, be creative, but do not forget these important rules. Even art needs some structure! If your plot includes all of the traits listed above, you are well on your way to crafting a successful book.

 Rachel Schade, Writer, Editor, and Publishing Coordinator


Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.

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