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Fiction focus: Plot engines

What motors your novel’s narrative? It’s important to know so you can keep it ticking over says Margaret James

What’s the most important part of a motor vehicle?

Of course it’s the engine – the motor. The clue is in the name. Unless the vehicle has a motor, it isn’t going anywhere, or not under its own steam, anyway.

A story is a different sort of vehicle. But every story you’ll ever write will need a reliable motor or – if you prefer – an engine. It must have at least one basic premise that fires it up and then keeps it moving throughout its journey until it reaches that journey’s end.

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BUMPER ISSUE: Plan your writing year with our definitive guide to festivals, workshops, courses and events for writers in 2016 101 ways to inspire new ideas How to: Market your ebook Write the perfect submission letter Sell your article ideas 'Leave it out!": Create cliché-free crime dialogue Get active! Make the most of your writing retreat AND Get Booked at your local library Star interview with crime writer Louise Welsh, on tackling dark topics with a light touch

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