Monday, November 30, 2015

Cul de Sacs

So you’ve been typing merrily along, telling a story about some characters that originally seemed worth your time and a reader’s interest. Then suddenly, or slowly, you don’t know what to say next. You have no idea of how this story might end. Your main character has no motivation to do much of anything. Or, maybe, there aren’t any obstacles you can see in his or her way of getting what he or she wants. You have written yourself into the dreaded cul de sac.  What to do?

Obviously, you are going to have to make some changes. How many will take some thought.

First, look at your main character. Just how well do you know her? How much time did you spend with her before you started telling her story? When was she born? Where? Does she have siblings? What were her parents like? What does she look like? Is she beautiful? Pretty? Plain? Passable? Does she know it? What is she hoping for in life? Is there anything she would kill for? What is in her way of getting what she wants in life? (If nothing is in her way, there’s your problem. There is no story to tell).

Study every main character just as closely. Can you visualize each character? What are their goals? How do those goals relate to the main character’s goals? Are motivations strong enough to support the conflict necessary to maintain a story?

Sometimes the cast of characters needs to be expanded. Each additional character, with clear motivation that affects the main character, expands plot potential.

Decide who fits into your story and eliminate or change those who don’t.

Think about classics that you can rip off. Ooops—use for inspiration. Cinderella? Sleeping Beauty? Snow White? Emma? Elizabeth Bennet? Jane Eyre?  Pip? Don Quixote? Sidney Carton?

Look at your setting. Can you really see it? What time of year is it? Can you see the interiors? The streets? The vehicles? The clothing? Do the characters you have created really belong in the setting you have chosen?

Now, look at what you have written and decide what must be deleted, added or modified before you can move forward.

Or—just maybe—you didn’t write yourself into a cul de sac. Maybe, you are paralyzed by the prospect of writing the Big Scene. Next time, I’ll talk about that.

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