Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Don't Make It Harder Than It Is!

I always tell people that I think I am inherently lazy. Of course when people listen to my schedule they do think differently. Despite that schedule (or maybe because of that schedule) I do try my best to find the easiest way to solve a problem. If there is a shortcut, or, if there is a way I can multi-task something, I will do it. The same goes for when I help authors with their stories. If we can find a way to not re-write the whole bloody story, then let's find that solution.

Of course, I do think that many writers don't take this approach when fixing those problem areas in their stories. Instead, they often find a way to make the problem worse and certainly make more as they work through those revisions. Much of this also, in my opinion, comes from critique partners and critique groups who, in the spur of the moment, create a solution without really thinking through the implications of it.

If we are trying to find a solution for a problem that has shown up in our story, the first thing we need to do is to identify the underlying problem. This idea actually comes from the Future Problem Solving Program that many of our youth participate in. In other words, we need to identify what the real issue is with the story. On the surface, it might look like something with the plot, or with the character. In reality, it might be something as simple as tweaking a single scene or a single element in the character's back story.

For example, one of my authors had a story that had an issue with the character and his motivations for doing something. The editor really didn't like what was going on with the hero and the heroine. The first instinct was to add this whole back story about something that had happened in the war with a friend. This would give him the inner feelings of not wanting to commit to something because in the past, the same thing happened. Of course adding this would now force the author to add in another full layer of this military life, the other soldier and everything that led up to that scene. Instead...

We looked at the issue. The whole problem was that the character didn't want to get involved to start a family. There was a fear of this from something that happened. So, we made him a widower. His first wife died in childbirth even though the doctors said it was going to be risky for her to have kids. Therefore it was his fault (in his head).

By taking this approach, we now have a small back story, and not something that will go on for pages and pages as with the military approach. We also have a moment for the heroine to now relate to this guy who, up until now, was pretty cold and distant. The success of this was a solution that not only fixed the motivation element, but added a nice scene with the heroine and added depth to the story.

The idea behind this is simple. Look at the problem and think first about all of the different approaches you can take. Would simply a slight twist to a character fix the problem? Could you take out a scene that might be creating the problem. Look before you jump!

Let me know how you figure out your tough challenges!

1 comment:

  1. This made me think. I've gotten some good new directions when I play "What if" with a fellow writer who has read my story. It always seems as if one idea blossoms into another and eventually morphs into a workable solution. In the future, I'm going to remember not to over-complicate. Thanks!