Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't Force Plot Issues - Look For Undiscovered Gems

Too often, I find submissions that, at first glance, seem like great ideas for a story. However, once I dive into the story, I find that it becomes cumbersome and forced. In other words, the writers is trying too hard to make something happen in the story. They are forcing in a conflict that really doesn't have a place in the story. In some cases, I can see past that bump in the road and if the rest of the story is good, we can move on knowing the solution is easy. Unfortunately, more often than not, the author has, with this one glitch, created so many other problems down the road, that a complete over-haul is the only solution.

Now you all know that I am a firm believer in plotting. I know some of you out there feel plotting "stifles your creativity". I am not going to get into that issue today, and what I have to say may seem like it is a far reach from the plotting I am always pushing. 

In simple terms, some times, the answer you need to get your characters through a plot issue or over a conflict may be right in front of your face. Maybe that next book you want to write to make this novel into a series is right in front of you and you just didn't see it. Let me give you an example.

I had a call from one of my authors yesterday regarding a book she is working on. She had some struggles with a motivation for one of the characters that happens further back in the book. I know this has been killing her for some time so hearing the excitement in her voice told me she had gotten through it. How she did it was pretty amazing.

She had taken time off of working on the current book just to give her mind a break. She went back to an earlier book she had written, not for research purposes, but simply as a nice book to read in the evening. This particular book had nothing to do with the one she was working on. It was part of another series and none of the characters ever meet up with each other. But here comes the great surprise.

In that first series, she had made a reference about the villain who had been swindling money from the Ton and had ruined a bunch of families. More to the point, she had the swindling take place in, coincidentally, the location of the current book she was working on. Interestingly enough, the current book needed to have a motivation for the hero to want to save the heroine. Ready for the fun part? A) The situation they were currently in was similar to the one in the prior book; and B) [this one is really cool], the hero left London fleeing to this new location in the exact same year the incident from the prior book had the issue.
Note - I know I am keeping a few things vague here because this is a current WIP for her.

The point of this is pretty simple. She had not planned any of this. In fact, the idea for the current series wasn't even something she had thought of when she was working on the other book. It just happened.

I honestly think that too many authors try too hard to make these situations happen in their books. They work too hard in book 1 to "set things up" with characters to turn it into a series later on. All of that forcing, however, creates a story line and a voice that is often not that naturally flowing off of the page.

Look, I get it. This is not something that will happen all of the time. This is literally one of those "being in the right place at the right time." But, I do think this is one of those times where, if we just step away from what we are working on, and simply open our eyes, we might find the better decision for our book.

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