Whether Maimed or Not

 

Okay, so you’ve got your main character into a situation that has no recourse, outlet, or salvation in sight. She’s somehow maimed and in desperate need of direction. You’re not sure how she came to fall into such distress; you hadn’t planned it. What are you going to do?

Don’t panic. You’ve been there before. You know that there’s always a way out of any situation, even if the only action possible to have the character sit on the floor, leaning against the wall, and cry. That is still emotive action that sets up a change of scene.

Now what? Pause. Regroup your thoughts. That is something your character can do while wallowing in emotional release on the floor.

Regardless of the circumstance that trapped your character in this situation, focus on logical solutions. If the movement forward isn’t logical, the reader won’t buy it. You’ve heard that before. This is the time to implement that thought process.

If the problem is a relationship, think of the options available to the character. Is the relationship viable, retrievable, and healthy for the character? Make a decision based on your gut response and earlier content. If dumping this relationship creates more conflict down the road—conflicts that will ultimately create a stronger plot line or twist—you might want to consider this new strand of plotline.

If this is a physical threat situation—character is trapped in a house, cave, castle, etc. you must decide her most logical action to help herself or to gain help from another character, perhaps a walk-on character written specifically for this purpose. Unless the place is deserted, there will be someone around, even if it’s only a rat. Hmm, there’s a thought. What if that rat is someone who has, up to this point in the story, been a candidate for villain?

Think about it. Why would this character have followed your heroine to the place? What does that question bring to mind to add plot, suspense, backstory, etc. to this new situation? Are ulterior motives in play and if so, what kind? Perhaps, this is the true hero for your heroine and the one that was designated previously is actually the villain. It’s your story to develop as you see fit.

Once you have a new direction, fill in the blanks. Think of your story as a fill-in puzzle. That’s really what it is. You have key points to consider. You need paths to connect these key points. Here’s an example of questions to help develop the story.

Heroine is running away

  •  Why is she running?
  •  Is her life in danger?
  •  What is the truth she’s looking for?
  •  How far does she have to run?
  •  Is she alone?
  •  What is her reward for finding this truth?

Heroine’s only hope of finding out the truth is to find a specific character

  •  Who is this person who holds the truth?
  •  Is there a connection—out of the past—between these characters?
  •  Is this character willing to dispense the truth she’s looking for?
  •  What’s in it for the truth-bearer?
  •  Will the truth-bearer travel with her to the end?

Heroine falls for villain’s trap and has nowhere to run

  •  Can she come up with a plan of escape that doesn’t get her killed?
  •  What are the resources at her disposal to use for escape?
  •  What does she hear, smell, taste, see, feel?
  •  Does she hear something/one outside her confinement area?
  •  Will this new entity help her escape?
  •  Is it a villain or the good guy or is it another female?
  •  What reward is there for someone to help her?

Heroine escapes to continue her search and now has traveling companion

  •  What does she talk about with this companion?
  •  How much time does she have left to find the truth she seeks?
  •  Can this companion continue to aid her in her quest?
  •  What kind of relationship develops between these two travelers?
  •  What is the next obstacle in heroine’s way to delay her travels?

This type of thinking keeps the storyline moving, but it also fills in the blanks in a way that doesn’t require so much backstory that the reader drowns in it. If you have to redefine along the path to this stage of plotting, so be it. This questioning procedure does more than define—it moves the story.

Whether your character has been maimed or stalled, or you’ve written yourself into the proverbial corner, you can do painless surgery by allowing yourself the right to speculate, deviate, or anticipate within your plotline.

You have questions that you need to ask about your story. Take the time to bring them out into the light and spend time with them. You won’t regret the digression. Enjoy this lovely process of getting to know your character and her life complete with pitfalls. That’s what adventure is all about.

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  1. March 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    riveting questions

    • claudsy
      March 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Thanks, Pen. Glad you liked them. The great thing is that they could be used for just about any plot/character combo that a writer can come up with, including genre.

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