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How To Write a Good Novel: Give It a Powerful Crisis

When you're learning how to write a good novel, it's critical that you understand how very important it is to come up with a really great initial idea.  You want to make sure your idea intrigues and inspires you and you want it to hook your readers from the first page to the last.  The best way to come up with a good novel idea that accomplishes both of these things is to begin your story with a major crisis.  If you choose the crisis using the guidelines I give below, I think you'll find the resulting story idea will crackle with tension and excitement and will help you write a page-turner that readers and publishers will love.  A good crisis will compel your main character to make a decision to solve the problem caused by the crisis and will give him a powerful motivation to succeed.  It needs to be a big enough crisis that your main character will need the rest of the novel to overcome it. 

Make Sure Your Crisis Fits These Three Criteria

Literary agent and published novelist Evan Marshall has developed some great specific guidelines for creating this initial crisis.  If you follow these, you'll see that your initial idea deepens and intensifies into a powerful force to drive your novel forward and keep you and your readers engaged through the end. 

1.  To start, you want your crisis to fit your novel's genre.  Clarify what genre you're writing in and then make sure that your crisis is appropriate to your genre.  For example if you're writing a murder mystery, you probably wouldn't choose a crisis that includes an alien craft landing in the main character's backyard.  Instead, you'd start with… can you guess?  A murder! 

2.  The next requirement is that the crisis has to upset the balance of your main character's life so much that they are forced to do something about it.  The crisis can't be a minor annoyance that they could just ignore; it's got to be big and life-changing.  Your readers will quickly get hooked into your story as they wonder what your main character is going to do in the face of this big problem.  That's why having a powerful initial crisis in your novel is so important. 

3.  And finally, it's important that the crisis intrigues and interests you as the novelist.  It should be something that you care about and feel compelled to write about.  When you feel deeply engaged by the crisis, it will show in your writing and your readers will sense your genuine enthusiasm.  Plus, it will give you the energy and motivation to see your novel through to the end.  When you feel excited about your novel idea and want to see what happens next, you'll know you're on the right track. 

Your Main Character's Story Goal: Solve This Problem

After reacting to this initial crisis, your main character makes a decision that will affect him for the rest of your novel: he decides to do whatever it takes to solve this problem and bring his life back into order again.  This decision guides all his future actions and propels your story forward with each scene.  Here are a few thoughts on how to make this story goal most effective, again courtesy of Evan Marshall. 

1.  Your main character's goal will involve wanting to experience relief from something oppressive or problematic or his goal will be to possess something he really wants. 

2.  He must succeed at this goal or there will be terrible repercussions.

3.  Your main character should have a worthy, admirable reason for wanting to solve this problem.  You want this goal to reveal your character as a likeable, honorable person at their core so your readers really want him to solve his problem.

4.  Your main character's odds of succeeding at this goal must seem next to impossible.  When this main story goal has such high stakes, it will create tremendous tension that will help you and your readers stay with your novel all the way through to the last word. 

About the Author

Evan Marshall has developed a complete step-by-step system for writing novels that gives you everything you need to write a compelling, powerful novel with best-seller potential. If you’re interested in learning more about his system that shows you how to write a really good novel, I encourage you to check out this blog post at I think you’ll find his novel writing system makes the process of writing a novel seem like something you could actually accomplish yourself.

Laura M. McKenna loves to write about fiction and novel writing and has contributed frequently to various websites including She is currently blogging about her experiences using the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software to develop her novel idea at

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