What makes plot memorable is not all the action nor the descriptive environment or the richness and intensity of the characters – but what the action does to the character – how they change or emerge from the conflict – their learning’s – or denials. To deepen a plot your characters need to grow and although some main characters may have enduring qualities (i.e famous series of novels with the same main character) the events which happen to them impact on their psyche and they change; even if subtly.
Plotting is your novels goal and direction. Its been said that if you are setting a goal it is not always important to see very step of the way in order to still achieve it. It is very like have the goal of driving to a distant city by car at night. You may have a map – or you may know the way already. You drive as far as you can see with your headlights, and then keep going. You may not be able to see that city when you set out – but if you keep driving – you will get there. As it is with your plot – you may have a feeling or a basic map about the end destination – but you don’t need to have every step in crystal clear definition in order to get started. Just start and keep going as far as you can see ahead. You may need to stop and ask for directions ( a shocking and foreign thought for many!), consult your map and decide a different route may be easier or have a better outcome for you – but the key is to keep going.
Regardless if you are a writer who does not use a system or outline – or one who has the story line strategically plotted out in sticky notes or index cards – as you write you will discover much about your story and your characters that may cause you to discover fresh material and inspire you with new ideas. This is especially true if you are co-writing, have a muse or if you have another person who is willing to be a idea bouncer.
If you get totally stuck, cannot see the next step ahead of you; perhaps your headlights have dimmed – try these questions to generate bridging scenes or ideas.
What is my characters emotional state at the end of the scene I have just written? What is their immediate reaction to this?
What is the next action my character will take? Will this be in line with their core beliefs and values or ultimate goal – if not – why not? How do they feel about this inner conflict?
Is there another character which has been knocking at my minds door; begging to be let in to interact with what has just taken place?
What is the next strong scene in my plot line which needs transitional scenes to bridge what has just happened to what is about to happen?
Is there any back story which needs exploring before pressing on?
Failing this, begin writing your next major scene and clues for transitional scenes normally implant themselves into your text.
Or do something entirely different and take your lead character out for the evening by answering these questions.
Send an invitation to a good night out to them. What is their response? What would convince them to go out to a party, a nightclub or a pub ? make that happen. What do they dress in – why? What would they order to drink and eat? Someone flirts with them while you are out – what is their reaction? What would their next step be? Someone else picks a fight or an argument with them – what would it need to be to really upset your character? What is their reaction? Take them away from this situation and allow one or two of their friends or work colleagues from the story into a coffee shop to ask them how the night went. What would they say?
Remember – writers paralysis can and does happen to anyone. The above exercises are meant to change your perception and view on what you are seeing in front of you when you get lost in your plot, to give you new possibilities or opportunities to explore facets in your characters you had not thought of before. .If you lose your plot – go and find the box it came in – or make one to put it in. Doing something silly ( like building and decorating a ‘plot box’), away from the physicality of writing and thinking of your characters, themes and plot will free your mind and allow possibilities to seep back in; renewing your enthusiasm and injecting new vigor into your passion. Keep writing…..it will come….