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I have been trying to write a good plot that's strong for my first novel. However, I have a feeling my plot isn't strong enough. As I began writing, I figured out that a lot of things were just dragging and the pacing was unearthly slow.

My plot is that a teenager is an immigrant from Ireland who will do whatever it takes to make sure animals gain respect with warnings, threats, and even murders of animal abusers. But everything goes downhill when the animals he protects are blamed for the owner's consequences.

The thing is, his story isn't supposed to be action-packed. It's more of a character-driven novel in the light of right and wrong. If I made it full of action, it wouldn't be the same story. But it seems as if all strong plots have somebody kicking the bad guy to oblivion or getting rid of ghosts. When he does kill, it's subtle. When he sends threats, it's subtle. The reactions are mostly met with police and moving; nothing too much until probably 1/3 into a novel.

I just don't know how to make it exciting for the reader without adding super action-filled scenes that will ruin the feel I want for this book. Thanks in advance.

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the pacing was unearthly slow

When people disparage stories as "too slow" what that often translates as is a lack of engaging content - the stuff that makes you feel that the story is going somewhere and you want to find out where that is.

Putting your characters into situations of conflict is a tried and tested way to do just that - sure, you can take the word "conflict" literally but it doesn't always mean kicking posterior and taking names. The obvious "conflict" candidates in your plot are between your activist character and those he targets, and between the character and the authorities. But they aren't the only ones he can have conflict with - for example there's nothing to stop him having heated debates with other activists about the "right" way to go about their cause, where the line is etc. Similarly he can wrestle with his own morals about whether what he is doing is justified.

I just don't know how to make it exciting for the reader without adding super action-filled scenes that will ruin the feel I want for this book

"Action" is one way to make a story exciting - but it's not the only way. There's nothing to stop you spinning out tension and excitement by taking the reader along for the ride with what the main character is experiencing. Even if nothing much objectively happens that doesn't mean there isn't strong material to work with. Having a large incident that provokes say a large police presence or public reaction early sounds like it would shift gears in the story in a way that you are looking to avoid. But you can create a dramatic moment through a near miss.

Have the character do something and nearly be discovered - not by someone who is hunting them but by an incidental toss of the dice, a security guard turning back just before shining their torch into the character's hiding place that sort of thing. Written well you could have the reader's heart racing right along with the character's as they contemplate discovery and it's consequences - but because they don't get discovered it's drama without the action. No bad-guys get kicked, no ghosts or monsters are defeated, no damsels are saved.

The beauty of that sort of thing is that because it has no "real" action associated with it you can have it happen more or less as early in the plot as you like without having to escalate the wider situation earlier than suits.

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  • Good note here ^ Got me thinking Telltail Heart. It's all about the terror in that guy's head. The Action is minimal, but the impact profound.
    – Starscream
    Jan 7 at 1:10
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You can still make the plot exciting without tons of action. You said you wanted your book to be

a character-driven novel in the light of right and wrong.

You can use other elements of writing to still have that type of book. One element you could use is mystery/suspense.

For example, your MC could be subtle and mysterious enough with suspenseful murders and whatnot, that it turns the theme into this type of mystery, thrilling, exciting, and eye-catching genre, but still giving lots of room for character development, change, and right vs wrong.

A different element you could use could simply be how you write. You don't need to change the plot, instead change your writing style, to make the plot seem to sift and bubble with a type of closed/honed in action, where instead of big picture car chases, you narrow down to those riveting little details, making your plot and story much more exciting.

The last element you could change would be consequences. Make it seem like a life or death struggle. Make it inspirational, but with the threat of being caught or failing to prevent animal abuse loom above your MC. This would also accomplish making it more exciting.

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