The interplay between plot and character development in a story should be like watching a couple on Dancing with the Stars. It’s so seamless and dazzling that it’s impossible to tell who is leading and who is following. Therefore, it’s only natural that if you’re struggling with one, you might have to tweak the other for the actual fix.
In yesterday’s post, I discussed my most current writing difficulty: the plot snag. Without giving away too many spoilers, my big struggle was with the last two chapters of rising action, where I was drawing total blanks. The story just wasn’t unfolding and I couldn’t even think of the next scene.
Diagnosing writing issues isn’t like figuring out what’s wrong with your car. We don’t have a manual or physical, tangible parts we can examine. However, here are a few things I see in this current manuscript that scream “plot problem.”
- Unsolved issues: One of my main characters is a female detective named Allison. In one scene, I know she runs back in her room to get a box of old evidence and notes, but I don’t know what’s in the box. In another scene, Allison and Michael see some papers on a desk that I know relate to an international problem, but I don’t know what they are.
- Necessary backstory that doesn’t fit: I know Allison’s father’s death a few years ago is integral to the story, but I haven’t been able to fit it in.
- The big picture story works but the important details aren’t coming together: I know that Michael and Allison are supposed to hunt the villain. I know most of the steps they take. I know the climax. But I’ve got so many holes in the parts that explain why they are hunting the villain that the story feels hollow.
- I feel like my villain’s plan is second rate: To tell you the truth, when I think about her plan to start taking over the world, I kind of get embarrassed and don’t want to tell anyone because subconsciously I know it’s cheesy. It feels like a B-rated action film–one where people go, “This doesn’t make sense.” I mentally can’t develop the ideas because I know they are laughable.
The fix: In this case, I realized that the cause of my plot snag was a character issue. My villainess’ ideas and plans didn’t fit her character. (Nor were they logical, I’m ashamed to admit.) I spent yesterday reevaluating her character a few questions I asked myself:
- What is her goal with this disaster she is planning?
- How much work toward it has she done so far?
- What drives her? Power, money, fear? Why does she want power?
- What is her end game? What does she want to accomplish with her master plans? (This question was actually the game changer.)
- What scares people in today’s society? (You can’t create tension if the reader isn’t a bit nervous about the outcome.)
Those questions helped me reevaluate the villain’s plan. I changed the whole thing and ended up figuring out several of my missing puzzle pieces, including connecting the dots with Allison’s father’s death and her box of evidence as well as filling in my missing two chapters. The good news: I don’t have to rewrite much!
How about you? Have you ever fixed a plot problem by reevaluating a character?