Character and Plot. The two things you need to make a book. (Please don’t cite me examples of books that have one but not the other. Those are outliers and not the main thrust of books.) Generally speaking those are the requirements.
Now for most folks, myself included, character is actually pretty easy. They come swaggering up in our heads all badass and near fully fleshed out. The plots? They’re a different story. Plots are tricky little devils and hard to get hold of sometimes.
But that’s because we overthink them.
We do. As writers our brains are moving 90 to nothing and cruising top speed down multiple tracks. We mix our plot up with the following things: Character, Backstory, World-building, Themes, and Motives.
But we don’t need that for the actual plot.
The plot is the skeleton you hang all that meat on to dry . . . or to move on the ends of twine in a dance beneath the pale moonlight.
Hey, I’m not here to judge.
So here are the basics of your plot. So basic that it will fit nearly any story. (again, no examples otherwise, stay on point people.)
THINGS ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL
KEEP THIS PART EXTREMELY SHORT!
Like ONE page or so short. If you write 30 pages of the normal world then you need to tear out 19 of them. This is the natural world or state of your character. This is before he starts the plot WHICH WILL CAUSE HIM TO CHANGE BY THE END. Books are about characters changing. That’s the point. ANYTHING that happens in this part we don’t care about! It’s just the setup for the next part. Got it? Okay, next is:
BAM! THE PLOT DOES A DRIVE-BY
Your first fight scene. You have introduced the hero, the villian, and in this fight scene you will bring in the theme of your book. I should be able to, without a LOT of work, tell you exactly what your book is about by page 30. This is your Inciting Incident. Your Call To Adventure. Whatever you call it, make it big and punchy and really knock the hell out of your hero.
Oh, and he should not win, just escape.
LOOKING FOR TROUBLE
Pretty simple. He just got blindsided by this thing he didn’t know was coming. This is the time to do research for him and figure out what the hell he’s up against.
In finding out about this evil, the hero will turn to his friends or experts. He will gather allies, people who will help him in the next step.
MY OWN BUTT TASTES TERRIBLE
SECOND BIG FIGHT SCENE! If your hero wins the second fight then the book is over. Don’t let this happen. He should get stomped by evil, he got cocky and went on their turf. He has to pay the price. Really kick the ever-livin’ crap out of him and his allies.
PUKE AND RALLY
Because he’s the hero, Duh. He uses the lessons learned in the part where he got his ass kicked to take the fight to the Big Bad.
EVIL CUTS AND RUNS CAUSE EVIL DON’T FIGHT FAIR
Well, that one is pretty self-explanatory. Once the tides turn on evil it tends to skedaddle. In real life this would mean the end of the story But here you go writing a book so this happens:
THERE IS A SACRIFICE
Virgin, not virgin, it’s your call. Evil doesn’t just leave quietly, they have get their MUAH HA HA’s somewhere. Before they dip they strike out and hurt or take something from the hero. Could be the object he is protecting, could be one of his allies, could be his toupee’. (Hey, those damn things is exprensive!) Because of this action:
SHOWDOWN! BIG BOSS LEVEL THREE!
With nothing left to lose and everything to fight for the hero pulls it together and returns the ass-whoopin favor to evil. Make it huge, make it epic, let there be hellfire and brimstone! Monkeys and midgets and dragons!
REALITY SHOW CLIP TIME!
Wrap it up. Keep it quick, but show how, with evil defeated, the hero and his allies return to normal, except that things are different now because their growth as characters was the whole point of this exercise in sadism.
That’s right. As an author, YOU are a sadist to your characters.
And that is the basic plot of a genre book. Expand on it, add to it, rearrange it, do anything you want to it. It’s your book.
Write the story you want to read.
And now for your enjoyment: a picture I took of a model cosplaying a character I may write about named Poppy C. Bordello, a little, psychotic dervish of a vampire assassin. (Copyright Von Tuck (thats me!))