Saturday, March 2, 2013

Plot Tips For When You Get Stuck

Plot is hard.

You start off with a great idea.  The idea sustains you and the writing flows for maybe 10, 30, 50 pages. But sooner or later the idea runs out, and then you're stuck.  So how do you get the plot rolling again?

I'm not the sort of person who likes to plan out every single plot point in advance.  I throw ideas around until something sticks.  That said, some ideas stick better than others.  Here are some things that work for me.
  • Think of an outrageous, shocking, or impossible event, the kind that makes you say, "I can't do that," while you secretly giggle in delight.  Do it.  Now explain how it happens.  Figure out the consequences.
  • Think of a backstory for the main or minor characters.  Now find a way of making that past come into the present.  This could take the shape of an old acquaintance, a parallel event, or a revealed secret.
  • Develop a relationship. Tear down a relationship.  Threaten a relationship.  Test a relationship.
  • Have your hero hurt someone.  This could be a major or minor hurt, emotionl or physical, accidental or intentional.  It adds conflict and dimension to your protagonist.
  • Develop other characters' motives.  Have them come at crossroads with the main character.  This is especially painful if someone the main character cares about is working against him. 
  • Have minor characters reveal secrets of their own.
  • Make them have to go somewhere.  Think of all the ways they could get lost.
  • Give them a deadline.  Think of all the ways they could miss it.
  • Introduce family members.  Family = Drama
  • Plan something for something nice, fun, or beautiful to happen.  Give the character something to hold onto in the bad times. 
  • Have your character learn something.  A new skill.  New information.  A secret.  
  • Plot the murder of your favorite cliche.  (See my "Dissecting Fantasy" posts for ideas.)

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