How do you write a book?
If you want to write an exciting book, you need a good plot. This is the plot of a novel that results from all the events in a story. The most important basic principle of an exciting plot: Causality. This means that all events of a plot should be causally connected. In a good story nothing happens that does not result from the previous one.
The only exception is the introduction. The first event in a book can be purely coincidental. But it ensures that all subsequent events get rolling – that’s why it’s also called the triggering event. The triggering event is at the beginning of a story and sets everything that follows in motion. This is very similar to the domino effect: the first stone falls and pulls all the following stones with it. For a good entertainment novel, the causality of the plot is the most important basis.
The main conflict
Before you start writing the book, you should summarize the plot of the story in one sentence. This helps you not to lose sight of the most important events despite many creative ideas. But the sentence should not only be a summary of the story, it should also contain the main conflict. In every book there are a lot of conflicts, but the main conflict is the red thread.
Let’s look at the novel “Perfume” by Patrick Süskind, for example. This could be the story in one sentence:
A man without a smell of his own and with an ingenious sense of smell wants to turn the smell of young women into a perfume that makes him more likeable.
The sentence sums up the book, but the main conflict is missing. In other words: Where is the problem in this story? What makes it really exciting? Here is the summary in one sentence including the main conflict:
A man without a smell of his own and with an ingenious sense of smell murders young women and turns them into a perfume that is supposed to make him more likeable.
In the second version, it is clear where the tension arises in this book, where the greatest potential for conflict lies: The main character of the novel is a murderer. So it’s clear that he’s in a lot of trouble. In the book all events and scenes are subordinated to this main conflict – that is the red thread of the story.
Before you start writing the book, it’s best to formulate a summary of the story in one sentence. The summary should be as simple as possible. If the sentence is too complicated, then perhaps the story is too complicated. Experienced authors can handle it, but with less practice it could be difficult.
An entertainment novel consists of a series of events. In the planning phase, the most important events and turning points of the plot should be defined. The main conflict in a sentence specifies which events belong to the story and which do not. If the course of action is so clear, then it should get a good tension curve: The plot needs an inner drama. This arises from the fact that the events gradually come to a head.
To get a good suspense curve for your book, you can work with drama models. The simplest drama model is the three-act play, which goes back to Aristotle. To this day, the three-act model is used to dramatize scripts and novels.
At the beginning there is a triggering event and the first gradually increasing events.
The events become more and more acute – until they finally culminate in a climax that usually brings about a dramatic turn for the course of action.
In the last act a chain of particularly dramatic events follows and then the end. The end must be the logical consequence of the previous events. The less chance there is in the game, the more drama.
Before you start writing the book, it is best to formulate four sentences:
Sentence 1: Summary of the story including the main conflict.
Sentence 2: Triggering event and first act.
Sentence 3: Second act with climax (= turning point).
Sentence 4: Third act with final fight (show-down) and end.
Exciting books need interesting figures. To achieve this, you develop the main characters for your book three-dimensionally. This means that the characters need a concise appearance (1st dimension), they have a psychological profile (2nd dimension) and a social profile (3rd dimension).
Interesting characters should also have something extraordinary. Something that sets them apart from the crowd: an extraordinary hobby or character traits or an extraordinary life story or something unique.
The easiest way to create exciting characters is to give them an unusual wish and a strong will to fulfil it – against all obstacles. Many authors write books with 300 pages and more. Then you have to maintain interest in the fate of the character over many pages. If the main character is determined to pursue a certain goal, the readers stay on until the end to find out whether the character will make it in the end.
The basis for good voltage
If you plan to write an exciting book, then a dramatic plot and interesting characters are a solid basis for good suspense. The most important thing: plot and characters have to fit together well.
For example in a love story:
The story leads the hero on a sailboat, although he never learned to swim. In order not to embarrass himself in front of his great love, he keeps silent and lets himself sail out to the open sea seemingly relaxed.
Outside, the ship capsizes. By an unfortunate coincidence his great love faints, goes overboard and threatens to drown.
Since plot and characters go well together, we as readers know at this point that our hero cannot swim and is panic-stricken by the water. The tension arises from the quite banal question: How does he manage to save his great love?
Expansion of the suspense arc
The tension can be further increased by numerous conflicts. They make sure that the hero has a lot of problems on his neck: he fights against nature, a powerful opponent (antagonist) or himself.
Back to our example:
The ship capsizes. It is stormy and dark. The hero desperately clings to a piece of wreckage and rows with arms and legs to save his great love from drowning. She faints in her life jacket on the waves. Then a part of the wreckage gets caught in a seam and the lifejacket disappears into the dark water – the faint threatens to sink. The hero is still too far away to hold her. But he can’t swim – will he manage to save her anyway?
Supporting the arc of tension
In order to create an exciting book, one should support this basic tension with many other factors. For example, when you’re writing a book, you make sure that the events turn over – the shorter the dramatic events, the faster the tempo and the more suspense builds up. In addition, further moments of tension result from misunderstandings, puzzles, secrets and a time limit. The writing style can also support the suspense, for example through a brief, rushed narrative style.