Friday, March 15, 2013

Characters can Make Your Plot Move

by Becky Martinez

This week Sue Viders and I are looking at ideas for how to deal with a plot that comes to a complete stand still and won’t go anywhere.  She provided some wonderful ideas for what you might try. (look below for that column) I have another thought.
Look at your characters.

Those pesky critters can bring everything to a stop just by refusing to cooperate. So in addition to looking at your plot or taking time to re-plot things, I say, study your characters.
How well do you know them?
Have you taken enough time to really figure out what they want?
Have you studied their motives?
Have you checked their personalities to see if they mesh with what you want them to do?
What about their background? Their family? Could that be holding them (and you) back?

More often than not, when I run into major problems with my plot it is because I have not taken enough time to really drill down deep into the inner core of those characters. I’m one of those writers who spends a little time plotting and I usually know how my story ends, but everything in the middle is kind of a mishmash.
It’s not that I don’t want to outline or compose storyboards and complicated plotting forms. And yes, I can make a detailed outline or even write a synopsis in advance. But when it comes to writing that story, before long, I find myself going off in some new direction and before long the story board is left behind.

If I really get to know my characters before we begin our story journey, they will take me and whatever plot I come up with exactly where I need to go. They make up the story as we go along. If I haven’t taken the time to get to know them, though, they are stubborn. They are going to stop doing things I want them to do, or things just grind to a halt.
If I’ve taken the time to know their goal at the beginning of the story, even if it varies a little along the way, more often than not, they stay true to the course. No matter what I throw at them, they continue in the same direction and they keep on fighting or working to reach that goal.

It’s the same if  I’ve taken the time to know what’s inside them, and what their emotional needs and motivations are. Then they can tackle any obstacles that come their way. Even if they don’t succeed at first, they will keep trying.
One of the reasons I wanted to look at how to jump start is stalled story is because not too long ago I ran into that problem. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get my story to go again. I had my plot laid out and it should have not been a problem. But the scenes seemed stale and the characters just didn’t seem to come alive.

At that point I went back and went through my original notes about my characters. I realized I had veered away from who I thought they were. I had them going in directions that character would never go.
I went back and spent some time just hanging out with my characters. I read through all my notes and then filled out a complete profile sheet to learn as much as possible about that character. At the end, I felt like that character could sit right down next to me and I would recognize him. I had taken extra time doing that with my heroine before I started writing the book but I just hadn’t taken enough time with my hero.

Next I sat down and read through the scenes where he was prominent and I could see where I had gone wrong. I was trying to force him in directions he would never go. Not that character.
Now I’m prepared to pick up the plot again and this time I think it should flow. I’m excited to be writing the story again.

Yes, I love to torture my characters and I love to throw roadblocks at them. You should too. But if you don’t know how they’re going to react, you may run into a problem. So, if you run into a stalled plot, don’t just look at the plotting elements.
Take a good look at your characters. Spend a little time with them. Get to know them better or get to know them all over again. It can get you back in the writing mood.


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