Thursday 29 February 2024

The Endless Maze

I’m three-quarters of the way through a first draft and I have a rough outline of the final chapters. I know the key incidents. But as I get closer and closer to actually writing them, I’m beginning to realise that there are lot of ‘logistical’ problems with the plot. Why is one character hiding where he’s hiding? What made him hide? How does another character realise he’s missing. Why can’t the fire brigade come to the rescue? 

When such questions come up, my initial elation at having worked out the basic plot points begins to fade as this sea of practical considerations rises. Which is why I’ve never yet been able to plot a book all on my own; there are simply too many problems to be solved. I can cover acres of paper in notes and ideas but I always end going round and round in circles, growing more and more frustrated. And not writing.

What breaks the jam is telling my wife the story. It’s only then that I start to untangle all the knots. Because she will ask questions. She’ll point out that an action doesn’t seem believable. (I want a flooded ford to stop the fire brigade; she says it’s the fire brigade – they’ll find a way through. So I realize I have to do better than a mere flood.) Or she won’t laugh at a joke I think is a rib-tickler, which makes me understand – eventually - that it isn’t so funny after all. (She is absolutely 100% reliable in this!) Without her, I wouldn’t have finished any of the stories I’ve written.


What I’m curious about, and why I’m writing this, is how others manage such a situation. Do you talk to someone? Use software programs? Tough it out on your own, just chipping and chipping away until the final form emerges? I find plotting hell. Is it so for others?


Joan Lennon said...

I'm a chipper. Inefficient as all get out, but it's what I do.

Rowena House said...

Working from a detailed plot plan, and sadly these days mostly alone, I try to clear the path of unexpected plot obstacles by going back to the plan to see if the 'discovered' problem is fatal to the plan. If it is, the plan gets reworked. Often, I find it's a matter of timing/placing or poor progression towards it. I.e., either the problem is an event in the wrong place &/or I've not built up to it properly. Thus the flood could stop the fire brigade if it's already established the bridge is weak & the alternative route closed by a fallen tree. Jokes, you're on your own! A wry smile is the best I'd ever hope to elicit.

Nick Garlick said...

After I'd written this, I decided to just sit and chip, chip, chip away - letting ideas come in their own good time. Like you say, Joan, not all that efficient, but it is bearing fruit.

And Rowena: thank you. Your remark prompted a thought about/solution to the 'bridge problem'.