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When A Plot Stalls

by Sue Viders

There is plotting and then there is PLOTTING.

Which one works for you depends on two factors, your story concept or idea and your personality for pre-writing set-ups.

But no matter if you’re a highly organized plotter or more of a “let-the-character-set-the-pace” person, everyone, published or not, at one time or another, hits the damn wall.

There is no escape unless you are using an established plot or perhaps some type of software that has all the variables programed into the outline. Any of the James Bond movies use the same plot, over and over, the main change being the personality of the actor playing Bond and how he reacts to the various plot elements such as the red herrings, the MacGuffin clues and the fascinating death traps James always finds himself involved in.

Most plots stall because of three very basic factors:

   There is no believable backstory of the action elem ents
   You, the writer, have no idea how the story is going to end
   And most importantly you, the writer, have no idea how the main character is going to change

I’d like to add a fourth which is my favorite--no pre-planning and pre-plotting has been done.

As a teacher of plotting I strongly advocate doing your homework in the sense that all most all of your plotting problems can be solved if you will only take the time to pre-plan the story BEFORE you begin writing. A story board of the action with all the plot points is a great place to start. Use a wall, and lots of sticky notes. The time it takes to do this is well worthwhile because if you have a completed story board, you most likely won’t get stuck to begin with.

But be that as it may, you are stuck. What to do?

Try singing the following song.

                                    “I love coffee, I love tea
                                    I love the Java Jive and it loves me
                                    Coffee and tea and the java and me
                                    A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (Boy!)”

Caffeine in any form will help. Grin.
However there are other things you can do to un-stick your plot besides filling your body with caffeine. I’ve listed a few that I use.

   Most importantly and one I always do is to put the damn plot away and do something else.

   For me, I like to start or work on a totally different type of creative project which could be anything from

   some art work
   any kind of craft
   sew a doll dress for my grand daughter
   knit or crochet a cowl for my mother-in-law who hates to be cold
   divide my plants that have gotten too big for their pots
   cook up a new veggie soup for husband
   and if desperate, do some paper work such as paying the electric bill

 Another idea is to do these things in a totally different environment.
   move to another room where there is no computer
   visit the library
   get coffee at the bookstore
   Exercise. Doesn’t have to be a tennis or golf tournament. Walk to the mailbox. Walk to the park. If you live close enough, walk to the store. Get outside. Move your body.
   Share your problem with a writing friend
       About once a month I have breakfast with a writing friend who writes absolutely wonderful characters but always, even after nine books, get stuck with the plotting. We chat about it and eventually come up with some great solutions

If you have to write, start another project, preferably in another genre... something that is totally different from this “stuck” project

And if you simply can’t leave the story alone, sit down and plot out the ending and the resolution or conclusion. Somehow when you know what is going to happen you will have the idea of what NEEDS to happen in the plot in order for the ending to happen

Bottom line - getting your brain off your story and into another project will help. Try it. Give yourself a week or two and then go back and do the story board. It will fall in place. And as that older guy says about his men’s clothing store... “I guarantee it.”




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