The Plot Thickens : 8 Ways To Bring Fiction To Life by Noah Lukeman is a little gem of a book that both beginners and advanced writers will get much use from. It’s ideally suited, though, to the writer who is starting their second novel (or third, fourth...), whether or not the first was a success. I say this because we learn best from our own mistakes, and those going for the second round will have many lightbulb moments either by working through Lukeman’s book on their new idea, or by using it to rewrite the first.
Lukeman starts by devoting three of the eight chapters in this book to developing the characters in your work, plus a fourth on how the character changes through the book. He provides the reader with hundreds of questions to consider across every facet of a character’s being imaginable. Not every question or topic will apply to every character, but his prompts are bound to help you develop extra information about your character that you can use in your work. Have you ever considered trying to work out what first impressions your character would leave?
As you work through the questions, Lukeman also prompts you to take each insight back to the plot of your book and consider how you can use the character traits you’ve uncovered to manipulate the plot. The only problem is trying to keep your focus on only one character (or at least one book) at a time, and not allow the questions to remind you that character X in story Y would fit the exact point you’re considering.
These writing chapters end in exercises to help you work through the points covered, and these are well thought out and very useful. Everything in this book is geared towards helping you to write a better book, rather than simply providing writing exercises that produce essays you can’t use. If you’re battling for ideas, these questions and exercises will help to generate dozens and consolidate the ideas you do have into workable plots.
The final two chapters are editorial advice on what you might need to edit out of your work, or capture to make it shine even brighter. Noah Lukeman offers this advice from his time as both an editor and a literary agent, and the fifty thousand manuscripts he claims he has read.
It is worth remembering that Lukeman is not a writer himself, but this fact is only noticeable in a few of his comments. It is his experience on the reading, editing, and selling ends of the publishing chain that is of real value here.