Thursday, February 23, 2012


How to Write the Plot of an Entire Novel in One Sentence

By Molly Noble Bull

            A one-sentence plot is also called a line plot, and you can’t write one without including a major conflict. What is a major conflict?
Stay tuned. 
            The first part of a one-sentence plot names the main character. It introduces the opposing character, tells the viewpoint character’s goal, and ends with because. The word because forces the author to develop a major conflict so strong it seems impossible to resolve. 
            My Love Inspired novel, Brides and Blessings, is now an e-book, and it was published in 1999. Here is how I might have started a one-sentence plot for that novel.

.   The Romance Novel:
            “Model and movie star, Suzann Condry, thinks she’s found a way to escape the glitter of Hollywood when she trades places with her twin sister, a church librarian, for six months and meets Josh Gallagher, a local pastor, but their romance can never end happily because— 
            Part two begins after “because” and explains why the main character cannot reach his or her goal. In other words, the major conflict is named after the word because. Below is the last half of my Love Inspired linear plot. 
            “Suzann is not a Christian or the person she pretends to be, and soon, she must return to her old life.”                                                                                                                                       

.   The Short Story:
            "Hungry and abandoned by their parents in a dark forest, Hansel and Gretel meet a kind old woman who promises them food and shelter, but their dream of a home and safety are soon dashed, because, the old woman is anything but kind and wants to cook them in her oven and eat them for supper."

.   The Mainstream Novel: 
            "When Allison Foster takes a two week vacation to Paris and meets Tyler Barnhart again after many years, she thinks she has found true love at last, but their romance can only be temporary, because, Tyler is now a Catholic priest and has vowed never to marry."

.   The Western:
            "After making a down payment, Jake Morrison takes out a loan to buy land on a creek in West Texas and asks Mandy Ware to be his wife, but his dream of land and a happy future with Mandy disappears shortly before the wedding, because, banker and neighboring rancher, Roger Stokes, is also in love with Mandy and demands that Jake pay off his bank loan immediately or lose the land and his down payment." 

.   The Mystery:
            “Private investigator, Tom Grant, volunteers to help Marta Mentes discover why her father disappeared, but when Marta vanishes and her uncle turns up dead, Tom wonders if he has been deceived, because, Marta and her father are her uncle’s only heirs to a secret Swiss bank account.” 

            Not only will writing the plot in one sentence attract the attention of an editor, it will also help keep the story focused and moving forward.  Remember, a linear plot is the backbone of your story, and a plot isn’t a plot without a major conflict. 

CBA author Molly Noble Bull has sold short stories as well as novels via Zondervan and Love Inspired Books.
Her newest non-fiction book is titles The Overcomers: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities. The Overcomers is a finalist in the 2011 Women of Faith contest for writer. 

To find all Molly’s books, write Molly Noble Bull in the search slot at online and walk-in bookstores.


Terri Tiffany said...

Excellent explanation! I plan to try that with my current WIP.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks for writing, Tiffany. I am glad my article helped you.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Wonderful, Molly. Thanks for breaking it down by genres too. I love and learn from examples. I'll try this with all my partials. Maybe I'll figure out why I hit a brick wall with some of them. :)

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks for writing, Jess. Brick walls are hard on the head. I've hit plenty in my writing career, so far.

Teresa Slack said...

Good info, Molly. I am currently working on a proposal that was requested in Sept. Ugh! Like most writers, this is my least fave part, but you make it seem so easy

Ann Lee Miller said...

Molly, thanks so much for sharing this. You make a job I consider impossible look easy!


Molly Noble Bull said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my article, and thanks for stopping by.