Plot Checklist

To recapitulate the points of this chapter:

1. Plant a time bomb on the first page— in the first paragraph, if possible.

2. Each story involves a race against time. That time bomb is set to explode at the climax of the story; its ticking should be heard on every page.

3. Every scene must further the plot. Especially in a short story, if a scene does not help move the story forward, take it out.

4. There should be surprises in the story every few pages. New complications and new problems should arise as the story progresses, moving the plot along on a chain of interlinked promises.

6. The characters' actions should move the story from its beginning to its end. Characters must be active, not passive. The protagonist must change.

7. The story ends when the time bomb goes off (or is prevented from going off). The ending must answer satisfactorily the major problems raised in the story's beginning.

8. Surprise endings are good only when the reader is truly surprised; even then they must be logically consistent with the rest of the story.

Chapter Thirteen

Plot in Science Fiction

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