Writing Steampunk: Plot
Greetings! I'm glad to see you guys again. There was an increase in steampunk literature during the past couple years, so I'm going to continue my blog series about writing steampunk fiction. I haven't discussed the basic concept of plot or storyline. It's a really important element in every novel, regardless of the genre. Today, I'm going to cover my helpful tips for writing an eye catching and unique plot. For those of you who are thinking about writing steampunk literature, this will be a very useful post.
A novel is nothing without a good story. What type of plot works for steampunk? Should it be complex or simplistic? Naturally, most authors would probably say something in between complex and simplistic. Although some steampunk books have very complex and confusing stories. I'm going to be honest. The complexity or simplicity doesn't matter very much. It just needs to make sense. You might be reeling back from my statement, but I've read too many books that were bombarded with horrifically convoluted plots. It severely hurts the integrity of any written work. Your reader should understand what's going on. If they're confused, expect them to toss your book aside. Many readers want entertainment and something that can take them away from the real world temporarily.
Let's take a look at some important components in a strong plot. It needs to introduce your main characters in a timely manner. You should introduce them organically through the story through various encounters. Avoid dropping them out of left field. It might be tempting to create a new character in the middle of your story, but find a reason to introduce them. Otherwise, they won't bring anything helpful to the overall plot. I actually think it's a good idea to center the plot around the characters. Readers are more likely to fall in love with strong characters than a complex storyline. Therefore, the plot must show character development, conflicts, and their central goals.
A good plot needs structure too. Some authors use outlines with a lot of details to help guide their plot. I prefer to have basic and simple outlines to keep my story on point. Other authors don't use outlines at all, but you have to be careful with that approach. If you don't have an outline, it's easy for the plot to drift around and change drastically. You might wind up with three different plots in one book and that's definitely not a good thing. Overall, you need to start at the beginning and reach the end. That might sound self-explanatory, but many writers screw up that general concept. Find an interesting idea that can be your starting point. Along the way, create some goals and challenges that will help your characters move through the story. Ultimately, find an end that will leave both you and the audience satisfied. Some authors love cliffhanger endings. That can be okay if you're planning a sequel, but I prefer a strong resolution at the end. I'm not a fan of ambiguous endings that leave readers with a lot of questions. Some writers end their entire series with a question mark and I think it ruins the journey. What's the point of reading a book series if you'll never reach a true ending?
Unfortunately, direct storylines tend to be predictable. Writers can add other elements to create variety and more complexity. It's possible to write twists and turns, red herrings, and whatnot. Maybe one of your hero's supporting characters is a double agent for the main antagonist. Perhaps the enemy will capture your protagonist and he or she will need to escape. Maybe your hero or heroine will find a love interest along the way. The main villain might have a secret plan that doesn't become clear to the reader until late in the story. What if you're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? The protagonist might find a cure for the zombie virus, but it doesn't work. There are many interesting surprises a writer can include in any story.
Are there plots or ideas that are specific to steampunk? I think it's important to include some type of rebellion. That's basically the punk element. Granted, rebellions are common for many genres. In fact, all books need some type of conflict. Your rebellion should focus on a particular topic. Common issues in steampunk literature are political, cultural, economic, or related to science in some way. Pick one or two of those concepts and build a conflict around it. For example, the premise might include a dystopian city that allows the aristocrats to have a lavish and elaborate lifestyle while everybody else suffers in poverty, starvation, pestilence, etc. That sounds like a good reason for an uprising. We've already seen every plot device. Look at the upcoming film called Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets. Judging from the trailers, I think Valerian looks really fun, creative, intriguing, and unique. But it also looks very much like Star Wars, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick, John Carter, and other space operas. Here's the important part. Bring something creative and interesting to these old tales.
Should you include subplots? I feel weary about subplots and flashbacks. If you want to include those elements, stay on track. I read quite a few books that got carried away with elaborate subplots. It can be like a detour that takes the reader away from the main story. Sometimes the plot never ventures back in the right direction. However, some writers find a lot of success with subplots. The subplot should contribute to the main story in some way. If you want to use flashbacks, they should have context. Again, I would recommend tying them into the main plot.
I have a particular approach to my plots. My characters are living in a post-apocalyptic environment and they created a very advanced steampunk culture to survive in it. The story focuses on specific characters and how they try to survive in a dystopian and industrial wasteland. My books also show a broad culture who's rebuilding and making impr0vements to civilization. Early in the story, something always goes horrible wrong. After all, characters aren't going to find a lot of peace in a post-apocalyptic nation. There's a huge emphasis on survival. I include a lot of action scenes in my books. It works really well with the concept of survival and violent conflicts. Action moves the story along much quicker with more excitement. I also establish some calmer scenes in the early chapters of my stories. My characters live in a futuristic American society. It's important to see their lifestyles, families, careers, hobbies, dreams, etc. I want the reader to know they're completely human and relatable. Like any steampunk culture, my characters are excellent inventors. Along the way, they create new things that change plot points in future stories.
This should give you some ideas. A successful book has a nifty plot. It might not be the most complex story on the earth, but readers are looking for entertainment and that's the main point. Find a story that intrigues you as a writer. Then have fun and run away with those ideas. I'm sure you'll create something really cool and interesting. Enjoy your 4th of July week and watch for my next post. Have a good night!
7/5/2017 08:55:35 am
Excellent. I too hate long subplots. Keep it moving is my motto. I outline plots and then watch my characters chew them up and spit them out lol.
10/10/2017 08:03:02 pm
Sounds great :)
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