Can you tell me the heart of your story in one sentence? Answer the all mighty "What is it all about?" in the ten seconds most people are going to give you in casual conversation before their mind wanders off on a tangent such as that the fluffy white cloud over there looks curiously like Bart Simpson's head? Yes? Sweet! You are one step closer to completing your novel.
I'm just hitting the midpoint in my current novel, Moon Dance. I was finding myself a little stuck. It felt strange. I knew what I was suppose to be working on, where the story was meant to go. Yet something was blocking me from actually putting fingers to keyboard the way that I have been for the last two weeks.
It hit me this afternoon. I was talking to my Mom. She asked what my book is about. Silence.
I know that my Mom's attention span for one topic can last a very short amount of time. She's busy and tends to worry too much. How could I share all of the things that I want to say in Moon Dance with her in a span if time ranging from a few seconds to a minute? At that moment I was in big trouble.
I sat down and began thinking about other books I had read. What would I say if someone asked me to tell them the basic plot of Lord of the Rings? The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? I noticed right away that I could sum up their basic concept in a sentence. Hmmm...
If an outline is a map, then a single sentence description of a novel is like a compass that will make sure you know which way is North. It's the trunk of a tree, the spine of any living creature, the course of a song.
Sarena and Kesyl must find a way to defeat Avish the Devourer before he destroys them.
Does this mean I no longer need subplots? Motivation? Absolutely not. What it does do, though, is tell me that if I find my plot getting too far away from my hero and heroine dealing with the enemy who is out to kick their ass my book will suffer for it. It also means that I need to somehow connect any subplots that I have to the main story plot in some way for them to make sense. Here are some examples:
Kesyl knows that Sarena is destined to be his. He believes that it should be her choice, though.
Originally Avish's goal was to get rid of Kesyl. However, Sarena gets herself mixed up with him by taking video footage of him when he attacks a girl at her high school. If Sarena did not bring the camera to Hycanth House there would be no need for him to live with the Lengtons'. He might not find out that he and Sarena are Destined.
Kyden places a curse on Sarena so that she will help him find a way to win Amy despite the fact that he is the God of Plagues.
Kyden tells Avish to leave Sarena alone; he has plans for her. Although Avish figures Kyden wants her for himself the truth is he wants her to help him get closer to Amelia Farrow. Because he needs her alive to help him get the girl he wants, I am able to use the dynamic between Kyden and Sarena to create conflict and gradually bring out qualities that separate him from Avish and the other Dark Prophets.
Sarena wants her brother Jayden to come home and spend Christmas with the whole family.
This is Sarena's original reason for going to Hycanth House. The desire to spend Christmas with Jayden is what gives him the idea that he and Kesyl can hide from the Dark Prophets there until the Council of Seven hunt Avish down to make living at the school safe again. (Yeah, right.) This subplot also gives the book its timeline and its holiday inspired setting (both Christmas and the ski vacation).
Avish finds himself falling in love with one of Sarena's human friends.
Before anyone can paint Avish as a one trick pony he finds a vulnerability in himself that he did not see coming when he meets Sarena and Isabelle's friend Cait McClure. When an accident later in the book brings about her death Avish blames Sarena and she actually becomes his primary target. He does not feel that anyone else is going to serve justice for the death of the girl he loves, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.
I think, based on the summary of my book, that the hardest part for me in the main plot is going to be finding a way to make the reader feel that Sarena and Kesyl took action. That they did not simply react to what life threw at them the whole way through. I feel that it is important for these two to actually make choices and "What did they choose to do next?" is a question I am going to have to ask a lot from here on out.
Anyway, I hope that this helps somebody out. If nothing else it gave me a chance to think.