I have been working on this book for about a year and have about six months of work left on it. The information I present is a compilation of years of reading, going to writing conferences and five years of college english classes. This is a small excerpt from my chapter on Plots.
Plot devices offer continuity or zing to the story. It is the unexpected accelerant or cohesion of storyline that can change the character, setting, or motivation and create a change of emotion for the reader. These are a few examples of devices.
Backstory – Often this occurs in the beginning of the book, but can occur anywhere in the book to explain the why of the character or the setting.
Flash-forwards and flashbacks are part of this concept of creating a backstory of the character or event. This device includes the use of telling the end of the story at the beginning of the book. Many movie screenplays begin with a small scene from the climax or near the end of the story. Then the backstory is unfolded by the narrator to tell how the character got to this point in the story. Starting a story with the death of a character is tricky and should be developed carefully.
Plot Twists – This develops as a character or circumstance presented is not what is seems. The character(s) may exhibit one personality but may present an action that shows them to be opposite from what they appeared. A circumstance may change in the denouement of the story as a bad guy shows himself to be a hero. This creates an unexpected outcome for the reader.
Acts of God – Not my favorite way of changing the story, but effective in global event or catastrophic event stories. Miracle stories are the best example, where a character is saved through divine intervention.
The Prize – The object everyone is pursuing in the story creates the reason for action and adventure. The movement of each character is a direct pursuit of attaining this prize. The prize might be another person, a physical treasure, or a key to a mystery.
Red Herring – The object, person, or event that shows up and makes the reader go, —huh? It might take the attention off of the real killer, the real problem, or the more important point. It is a way for the writer to add a plot twist, or create suspicion, or distract the reader. In my opinion, writers use it sometimes lazily when their story is otherwise predictable.
Framing – I mention this technique later in ways to begin a story. It is not as often used throughout a novel. However, it is used often in movies. A movie called “The Panic Room” is a perfect example of a literal frame of all action occurring to characters limited by a room in the house. Another way to frame the plot is to limit characters by gender or social class expectations related to their location, culture, or era of time. These are also framing techniques used often in movies.
Switching voice – This includes changing the point of view. The story may begin in first person, then switch to third person narrative, or advance to switching from the first person point of view of several characters. Split narratives offer two parallel stories from two characters in first person or third person points of view. It is a more complicated device that can bog down the movement of the story if not used correctly.
The journey – This is a simple structure of the traveling to or for something. It can be romance, adventure, treasure, escape, or seeking self-improvement. Each character acts based on the motivation of a desired outcome in the journey.
Plot devices simply make the story move in a specific direction. It leads the reader down a certain path, sometimes misdirected, in order to end up at a predestined place later in the story. Plot devices, plot structures, and plotting characters, all work in synchronicity to create a pattern of writing that draws in a reader and keeps them entranced in the story until it’s end.