Thursday, November 14, 2019

Dear O'Abby: I'm stuck. Can you help?

Dear O’Abby,

I’m doing NaNo and I’m stuck.  I’m at a point where there are multiple choices for my MC and I can’t for the life of me figure out which way to make her go.  I’ve tried skipping beyond this point, but because it’s a crucial decision, what happens next depends on this choice and I can’t write what happens next without her making this decision.  I’ve been going back and forth with different ideas for days, but I’m not happy with any of my choices.

Any ideas how to get past this?



Dear Stuck,

I know this feeling all too well.  When there are 155,000 options for your character and you’re not sure which one is the right one. 

Well, my advice is to choose the wrong one.

Fiction is better when characters make mistakes.  So whenever your character is faced with a decision, make her pick the one that is going to create the most trouble for her.  Pick the thing you would never select personally if you were faced with the same dilemma. 

I’ve had the same problem with the book I’m writing this month.  As a grown woman, I know the right thing for my protagonist to do in his particular situation is to call the police or some other authority figure and tell them what’s going on.  There will be a whole string of consequences from this choice of course, but all of them lead to the main problem he is facing being dealt with.  So as a writer, I’ve made him stubbornly refuse to go to the authorities, preferring to deal with the tricky, illegal situation on his own.  And of course making that foolish decision will lead to a whole lot of other, trickier situations for him to deal with. On his own.

That's important too.  To be interesting, your character needs to be active and really driving the outcomes from any decisions she makes.  If doing something one way puts the outcome into someone else's hands, choose another direction, one that forces your MC to solve her own problem, or places another one directly in her path.

So be decisive.  Never let your character dabble in her options.  She needs to pick the wrong path and navigate it, however feels natural for her.  And each time she reaches another branch in the road, she needs to choose the direction that leads to the most trouble, the most conflict.  It’s hard, I know.  We grow to love these characters like our own children and it’s hard to send them off in the wrong direction, especially when we know their choices are going to lead to them or someone else getting hurt.

I hope that helps!  Now, I’m off to give my MC some unexpected consequences for his poor decision making. Poor guy!  He doesn't know what's coming at him...



1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much! I know a lot of us have hit this same WALL! And are finding it difficult to see our way around it. But with these basic pointers you've given us a clearer path to follow.


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