Plot Hooks and the Speculative Element

Get your notes out from yesterday. These notes are about your speculative element-- the magic or science fiction or supernatural rule that isn't true in today's Earth. It's that thing that your readers must believe in order to buy into your story.

The Exercise:

If you have some idea of your plot by now, get out whatever plot notes you have and write down ten things (minimum) that your speculative element can do to your plot.

Example: In a magic world, travelling across a continent doesn't *have* to take weeks. In an advanced biotech world, maybe people don't have to die. What does that do to a quest fantasy in which the travel portion leads the heroes into more adventures? What does it do to the villain if he cannot die? Or the hero?

If you don't have any ideas about your plot, but you do know what kind of speculative elements you want in your novel, that's fine. Just look at your notes for that element and start asking yourself "what could I do with this element? Can I have my hero or villain use it? Refrain from using it? Is it a threat? A convenience? Both? What happens when it fails?Does it change some ubiquitous thing, like a technology that makes communication instantaneous, or a supernatural force that eats people in the dark (therefore making candles and lanterns necessary and commonplace).

What events can be framed around this speculation, and do you want those events to show up in your novel? {The litmus test for whether or not they appear in your novel is whether or not they fit into the novel's mood or theme, or otherwise grab you by the collar and yell "AHA!" at you}. Write down ten (minimum) things that happen which involve or rely on your magic, technology, or boogymen.

You don't have to end up using the plot hooks you've generated here, of course, but they help your speculative element become a more central part of your story, rather than serving as "background noise" to your novel (a la space opera). And you'll probably find that, when your plot begins to falter (usually around the middle-- plots always falter around the middle), you can grab your list of plot hooks out of your notebook and find something that helps push the story along, or at least gives your characters an interesting diversion for a few thousand words.