Sunday, March 15, 2009

D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!... *DING*

An glimpse into the mind of a writer working through a plot problem...

Have you ever had one of
"those" days with your writing? I've spent a bit of today working on the motivations for one of my characters... Who would've thought that this simple task would lead to a major duh moment on my part?

I started my task by re-reading the scenes that this character is in so I could get a feel for his voice again, not that I could ever really forget it... he is one of my favorite characters after all. The more I read, the more in love with my new scene ideas I've become. I'm going to add in additional little mini scenes with this character to help build his character up with the reader. It will really add to the story in ways that I honestly didn't think of when I first outlined Instinct. I never realized how little this character was in my original draft when he plays such a major role in the story. I guess I took for granted that the reader would sympathize for him, without really knowing him. These new mini-scenes will help show more of his personality and add some drama for Casey to deal with. Drama + Casey = Fun!

So what's the problem then? Arrrgghh! Well, while re-reading the text, I noticed a specific point where my character gets upset over something he walks in on (and rightfully so, given his perspective of the situation). The problem... his reason for being upset is horribly, horribly wrong. Unless I can recreate the way the weekdays fall believably in my story (not likely...), his motivation just isn't going to work here. Here's a breakdown of my lapse in mental processing:

1. Character asks girl out for the weekend and she tells him that she's going home to visit family.
2. He's sad, but accepts it, he did wait until the last minute to ask her (It was Thursday afternoon).
3. The
next Friday (not the next day, the next week) he sees her out with another man.

The problem? His reason for being hurt and mad is that she lied to him... basically in my head the days of that particular week went something like this: Thursday (ask out) > Friday/Saturday (she's with family) > Sunday (she meets other guy) > Friday (he sees her on a date with new guy). There are no other days between Sunday and Friday. It just doesn't make sense for him to be upset for the reasons I thought he was here.

So, now I have to find a better motivation for him to be upset about when he sees them out together. Maybe I can have him ask her out again for Friday sometime during that week and she tell him that she can't. Him asking her out for that night would work with their backstory, but she wouldn't not tell him why she couldn't and she wouldn't lie to him either, I think... I guess I could work that into the story, her lying about her real plans... Then he catches her in the lie and... well, the rest of the scene happens!

... \
... Brain processing this new info...
... /

*DING* (That's the sound of the buzzer in my head going off, saying this new idea is ready!)

OMG, I think I've got it! Yes, him asking her out again is DEFINITELY the way to go!

Thanks for listening to me working through this problem. For some reason working it out in my head wasn't cutting it, but blogging about it did the trick! I haven't figured out all of the specifics for this change, but I'm liking where they're headed. Fixing his motivation in this one scenario has even caused a domino effect to go off in my head and now I know his motivation (as well as a few other characters' motivations) in later scenes.

Well, I need to start sketching out these new scenes and motivations so I can add them in as notes in my main story file. This makes so much sense now! Maybe I was misinterpreting the scenes all along... it wouldn't be the first time... But anyway, Instinct calls!

So, until I blog again...
Talk 2ya later...

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Amethyst Willow said...

In software development, or at least, my dad's company though I've heard someone else use a similar phrase, there is the concept of an Intelligent Rubber Plant. Sometimes you're trying to code something and it's just. not. coming together. So you call someone over and read the stuff out to them and bounce your ideas off them. They can answer questions but they basically have to just be there 'cos talking the issue through "out loud" sometimes help you see it. I guess it's kind of the same blogging out your problems \o/

Anonymous said...

I've never heard 'Intelligent Rubber Plant' but i've been one, for my sons working out maths homework, many times! That was a term i needed.

'One of "those" days' - who, me? One of those months, actually. No, if i think about it, one of those quarters; been struggling since the turn of the year.

The benefit of being a writer of fiction is that we can chat to invisible friends no matter how grown-up we are/pretend to be (delete as appropriate). Sometimes i use one of those friends to bounce my thinking off. (Sometimes it works.)

aeryn said...

I like your solution! It makes a lot of sense! It is quite conceivable that a girl who is not very comfortable dating and/or does not want to hurt people's feelings (especially when the "people" are asking her out the second time and she again is forced to say no) will lie about her plans... or for a zilion other reasons when put on the spot... Can;t wait to read it when it;s finished.

Willow said...

AmethystWillow: I love the term "Intelligent Rubber Plant"! That's exactly how I tend to work through the big issues that come up in my writing. Now I have an official title to give the people that get contacted every time I get stuck, yay! :)

Travelhopefully: And I'm so glad that I'm not the only one having one of those years so far this year. First I end up perpetually sick and on medicines so strong, I can't think straight, then I get into a fight with my imaginary friends (characters). Then, when I finally get everyone ready to work again, I find this goof up that I'll need to go back and fix. Maybe finding this solution will be the turning point for me this year... Good luck finding your turning point!

Aeryn: You really think this will work for Casey? I can kinda see it, and like where it will take the story... but urrgghh, I don't know... I'm probably over thinking things, again. Not that I tend to do that very often... aw, who am I kidding... lol

Thanks for the comments guys!

beth said...

My "ding* moments almost always come from someone else. I'll have this huge complex problem, and ask everyone I know about it--and then someone will give a super-simple response and *ding*! The rest of the story writes itself.

Willow said...

Love when that happens! Even if they don't mean for it to be a "Ding!" moment, all it takes is them saying one little phrase and all the dominoes start falling as the story fixes itself in my head. I always compare it to the movie, The Butterfly Effect, one tiny thing causes this mass rewrite in my head.

Glad to see that your commenting is working again Beth!

Robyn said...

I have had trouble with holes in my plot A LOT! It seems that as you were typing your post, it came to you how to fix the problem.

I had a problem about should my character use a rock or a stick to kill a poisonous snake in my wip and then I discovered it was illegal to kill rattlesnakes. So the rock just goes into the bushes. Problem solved. I didn't want to kill it anyway.

And I guess you and I are the only writers in Blogosphere that write too much dialog. At least we have an easy time with voice, huh? :)

Willow said...

Wow, I don't know how I'd resolve the problem you had with the snake, probably because I'm deathly afraid of the critters anyway. I think my brain would freeze up just thinking about writing that scene, lol!

I still can't decide if I write too much dialogue or if that's just how I tell my stories. It's definitely nice knowing that when my character speaks people will believe them. I hate dialogue that sounds fake and spent a good amount of time reading about and practicing techniques that would make mine believable.

Good luck getting an answer for all of us dialogue-happy writers!

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