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4 Tips for Increasing Intensity in Your Plot

Plot is a crucial element in successfully writing fiction. Here are four tips excerpted from The Novelist's Essential Guide to Creating Plot to make sure your scene gives off the right intense impression.

Developing a strong plot is a vital part of writing a successful novel. In the Novelist's Essential Guide to Creating Plot, J. Madison Davis, whose novel "The Murder of Frau Schutz" was nominated for an Edgar Award, explains the basics of a good plot, covering everything from integrating characters and plot to building your plot's level of intensity as the story progresses:

"As readers move through time with each step farther along in the progression of a plot, they expect the tension to build to higher levels of excitement. They expect the story to become more intense at each step along the way, until the climax or resolution. ... A story that does not rise usually gives the impression that nothing is happening, even though there may be a great many things described in the scene."

Here are four excerpted tips to make sure your scene gives off the right intense impression:

1. Cliff-hanging. For centuries, a favorite technique of writers has been to end a chapter by breaking the last scene before it reaches a climax then presenting the climax later. You can also use the cliff-hanging technique to help the forward motion of your novels.

2. The tag line. A character speaking at the end of a chapter might promise interesting things in the pages to follow. Numerous authors also end their chapters (or story units) in mid-dialogue. ... Think of your tag lines in this way, as cues to further action in your plot.

3. Leitmotifs. Another technique for building intensity during the long journey of a novel is to use repeating images, phrases, themes and thoughts. As each repeats, it registers more strongly with the reader, creating a cumulative effect, as well as contributing to the impression of the plot as a whole unit.

4. The pause that refreshes. Increasing intensity is crucial to an effective plot, but it is possible to reach a point of diminishing returns. ... Any lengthy or large work of art needs shifts in tone and intensity to maintain interest.

Learn more about The Novelist's Essential Guide to Creating Plot.

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