Choose your own adventure… Plot Problems

Current Word Count: 17,419
Today’s “Goal”: 25,000

It’s November 15th and that means I am half-way through NaNoWriMo. Last week I’d hit a major snag – my characters had all decided to do things I didn’t plan for.

And yes, I realize how weird that sounds.

I have a plot, which I’d spent a significant time in October ironing out. For all the non-writers, this process means that you think of different scenes and twists to get you from Point A to Point Z. In order to make it a good story, each scene needs to serve a specific purpose, from getting your Main Character (MC) out of bed and into the kitchen, to revealing that the MC’s nemesis is really his father (Luke *p-sssshhh* I am your Father). This takes time and no little creativity because, honestly, some of the scenes are just plain boring (she walked down the street). And writers have to think of a way to make it INTERESTING.

ANYWAY, my characters had literally (haha, funny… cuz.. literature) taken my story in a different direction and so far all of my plans have had to be changed (which is why flexibility is a valuable asset in any writer). Which is when I had a revelation:

Writing is very much like a choose your own adventure book, except that if you pick the wrong one, when you flip to the designated page… it’s blank.

Here’s why:

  1. You know the beginning of your book – the setting, the characters, the purpose. So you can write that much.
  2. Then your MC gets to a crossroads – one you planned for maybe or one you didn’t. At this point you have gotten to know your MC a bit better and maybe, just maybe, the original plan you had for them doesn’t fit in their personality.
    For me, it was that my MC wasn’t as immune to panic and fear as I had originally planned (ie. I realized that no sane person would watch her fiance get mauled and kidnapped by giant monsters and then CHASE after the monsters without first having a massive panic attack and getting help).
  3. So you pick the choice that fits with your MC’s personality. It may or may not have been the one that you’d originally planned.
    • If it IS, then the “page” you turn to has text on it that you get to fill out and make your own;
    • If it ISN’T then, more often then not, the “page” you turn to has a vague idea of where you want to go… but nothing more helpful than that.

The blank page comes when you’ve picked “the path less travelled” three or four times in a row… then you’re stuck trying to re-imagine the whole story. And while that would be fine in normal circumstances, when you HAVE to write 1,667 words a day but have a blank page looming in front of you, it’s less than awesome.

For me, it was the fact that my MC wasn’t a heroine in a fantasy tale, which is sort of how I’d pictured her – strong, capable, competent, selfless and courageous. I realized at around scene 4 that my MC is actually just a regular woman – strong in some ways but physically weak and a bit stubborn, capable and competent in her chosen field but subject to panic attacks in social situations, selfish (because who isn’t?) and a complete and utter scaredy-cat. Also, I realized she had to crack before I could move forward with my story. So that’s where I am, cracking my MC like an egg and seeing what kind of omelet I can make. Nom nom nom.