Novels are stories of how one character gets from point A to point B, however, the beauty of the novel is not in the point A or the point B; it’s in what happens along the way. Boiled down to its simplest form, this is because novels are journeys that don’t go as planned.
For example, Bob is busy living his life until, all of a sudden, his coffee maker spits out watery slush and he decides he must replace it with a new fancy one. He decides to get in his car and drive to Walmart so he can buy a new one ASAP. Sounds easy right? It is until he gets to Walmart and finds himself in lockdown due to an approaching tornado. He spends his entire day with people who can’t afford fancy coffee makers and by the end of the day, he leaves the store without one because he realizes that, maybe his crappy coffee maker isn’t so bad.
In this example, there are three important elements to the story:
Bob wants a coffee maker (goal)
A tornado prevents Bob from getting his coffee maker (obstacles)
Bob learns that he doesn’t need a new coffee maker in the end (character arc)
Think about your character’s journey the next time you try to write a logline or query.
1. Where does he start? It must be somewhere imperfect or there is no reason for #2.
2. What happens to make him choose to go somewhere else? Note the choose. This is very important. He must choose to embark on the journey. People don’t end up on journeys by accident. At some point, they need to stand up and start them.
3. What prevents him from getting there in a quick and orderly way? This is the real meat of your story. There must be obstacles and they must directly cause #4.
4. How do these bumps change the person he is (and possibly, the thing he wanted when he set out on his journey)?