Source: Copyright 2000 by Alicia Rasley
1. Plausible plotting starts with cause and effect. Make sure each step in your plot has a causative event, and one or more effects. Character actions should be caused by some motivation, and should have some effect on the plot.
2. Your protagonist should save the day (or destroy it). Protagonist is the “first actor”, the character most active in the story. Most importantly, he should be the one who resolves the conflict in the climactic scene. No one else should solve the mystery, or discover the secret, or arrive just in time to save the day. The plot should force the protagonist to make choices and take actions, and the course of plot events should change in response to those choices and actions.
3. Give the protagonist a goal, then take it away. The goal-driven protagonist is an active protagonist, but if you just let the protagonist achieve his goal, you’ll have a linear or two-dimensional plot. Have him lose the goal, or sacrifice it, or achieve it and realize he doesn’t really want it, and you’ll add the complication that makes this a real story.
4. The point of plot is change. The events should cause a change in the protagonist’s inner life, to trade her original goal for a more worthy one, to face a personal issue she’s ignored before, or to resolve a longstanding internal conflict.5. Lead readers to the story, but don't drag them. Set up your opening scenes so readers are led to ask story questions like “Who killed the film director?” or “What will happen to John and Sue’s love when Sue learns that John has been lying to her?”