Instant Plot! Just Add: Kidnapping!

This month, I’ve given you a few really good tips on how to get your limping story up to at least a hop-skip-run.  Now, I feel like I should emphasize that these posts are (surprise, surprise!) very tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken as entirely serious suggestions.  Just somewhat serious suggestions.

That I will probably make fun of you for later.

The fact is, there’s no such thing as an “instant plot”, but what we can do is look at books we admire and see what they did to move their stories along.  Sometimes even a cliché can be useful (le gasp!) if it is used in its proper context.  That is, you either have to do something pretty incredibly original with it, or you have to make sure your readers know that you know it’s a cliché and you’re going with it anyway.  Deal.

robert louis stevenson kidnapped novel cover
Or… you could just make this Instant Plot the ONLY plot and name your book after it. But that’s been done. So probably not.

And so I am going to leave you this month with one more Instant Plot suggestion, and this is one that I’ve used.  If you want to add drama and excitement to your plot, all you have to do is get one of your main characters (or one of their babies!) kidnapped.

Bam.  Suddenly, there is motivation and urgency and something for your characters to do.  It’s that simple!

Except, as I said, Instant Plot ideas should never be simple.  They should be integrated into your plot, should have a purpose outside of just making your reader freak out, and should be as realistic as possible within the confines of the world you have created.

In the novel that I am currently working on (and have been working on for… years…), I have a character who gets kidnapped.  Twice.  He gets kidnapped from the original kidnappers.  I was all over this Instant Plot idea.

However, I like to think that I made it work as a plot mover in more ways than one.  It is the initial cause of a long series of events that bring the story to its conclusion, and it is integrated into the world-building.  My character didn’t just get (double)kidnapped.  His kidnapping was a huge part of how my main character learns just what in her world is going on.

So what are the different common kidnapping scenarios that you might consider (but maybe not because they are common and your book is oozing with originality!!!).  Oh, and if you want it to sound way more serious, you can always replace the word “kidnapped” with “captured.”  That’s how your reader knows that this is really bad:

  1. Hero gets kidnapped.  This is a good one if you want to stick with one character’s journey to greatness.  The villain or a band of random miscreants snatches your hero away in the night and suddenly, your hero has an immediate problem to solve.  This will probably also be dreadfully inconvenient because your hero had a plan and a mission and a quest and a kidnapping is definitely an unwelcome detour.  Instant angst.  But this is an excellent chance for your hero to prove his/her worth by winning his/her captors over to his/her cause.  This is also a chance for your hero’s One True Love to prove him/herself by rescuing the hero.  Good relationship test.
  2. Hero’s One True Love gets kidnapped.  This is a marvelous chance to let your character sink into some pretty dark depths of despair and misery from which he/she must rise and overcome.  Character building is important, you know.  And, of course, you must make it very clear to your reader that the One True Love’s life does actually hang in the balance.  If you’re really mean, you’ll kill the OTL.  Talk about Instant Plot.
  3. Hero’s baby gets kidnapped.  I think we covered this already.  A kidnapped kid is ridiculously stressful – for your character, that is.  Your readers will be pretty confident that you wouldn’t actually kill a child.  Even a fictional one.  Would you?
  4. Hero kidnaps villain.  In a strange turn of events, there is suddenly a villain in custody.  Of course, if you were film-writing, you would immediately contain said villain in a big clear box with two-way communication so that the villain could eye the hero creepily and say disconcerting things and generally cause trouble.  Because locking him/her in a dark room and gagging him/her is such a silly idea.  
    villain in glass prison                Be aware that if the villain is kidnapped, you really won’t have much choice except to let the villain escape later.  Otherwise, your Instant Plot will sputter a bit.

As I said before, Instant Plot ideas are not really meant to be taken in complete seriousness as a way to solve your plotting problems.  But by considering common plot twists, we as authors can decide what we want to use and how we want to use it. Being aware of the clichés and thereby either avoiding them or wielding them wisely can make your Instant Plot an interesting and likable one.

However, if you’re just desperate, you could simply write a novel in which a secret baby is kidnapped.  Instant Success! I just solved all of your problems.

Let me know what other Instant Plot ideas you think could be added to the list of “usually cliché but potentially awesome.”  What did I miss?

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