Friday, November 06, 2009

Getting Unstuck

I'm still struggling with the Book Brain. I've tried a few different things, so we'll see how any or all of them work.

1) Go back to the characters
I've been stuck on what happens next, especially given what I've just changed, and it occurred to me that what's most important is that the characters react in ways that make sense for them. What would this person really do in this situation? So I took another look at my core archetypes for these people to think about what drives them.

The problem I'm running into now is that one of the events is a huge one, the kind of thing that makes a person question everything about himself. So, would someone react according to type to something like that, or is it big enough to change the type entirely and change the way he'd react? I'm still not sure. I've made lists in both directions of things he might do, but both are still existing as possible futures.

2) Trust in the subconscious
I read something this week about getting your subconscious to solve problems for you. Just before you go to sleep at night, read over some notes about the project, and then as you fall asleep, focus on one main question that you need to resolve. Then maybe your subconscious will give you the answer in dreams.

I haven't been getting answers in dreams (oddly, I dreamed about an entirely different book), but I have been doing some daydreaming type thinking as I fall asleep and then again in the morning when I'm sort of awake but not fully conscious. I let myself imagine scenes with these characters, not even worrying about whether or not they belong in the book -- kind of mental fan fiction for my own book. I have discovered something I think I can use while doing that, and it takes the story in a new direction that I think I like. Maybe I should try daydreaming about those different possible futures and see the "movie" for each in my head.

3) Go back to the beginning
I'm going to have to go back to the beginning and make another pass at the book to do what Mom calls "Bill and Tedding" -- "remind me to go back in time and put a trash can there" -- to fix things that need to be set up for later events or to correct things changed by decisions I've made along the way. So I may as well do that now. Tweaking those little changes will help build toward the new direction of the last quarter of the book, and going through the whole book fairly rapidly instead of devoting three days to a chapter may help give me a running start toward the end while immersing me in the story, so that when I get to the stuck place, I'll know where to go.

I suppose we'll find out if these things work.

I got a jolt of awe/inspiration about plotting from something I saw on TV last night. My local PBS station is showing MI-5 (aka Spooks), and they're now in the season where A&E suddenly stopped showing it on a cliffhanger a few years ago (I know we're many seasons behind). The episode last night had some of the twistiest plotting ever, where you go through most of the episode thinking one thing is going on, but then that turned out to be a set-up for something else, and that then turned out to have been planned based on how the villain knew the good guys would react to the something else, so that their reaction played into the evil plan, and then when they thwarted that plan it turned out to be about something else entirely -- and all this made sense, and I didn't see any of it coming. My brain is depressingly linear, so I'm not too good at twists and surprises I really have to work at it. Any twists or surprises that come in my books come from me having plotted it one way and then changing my mind midway through the book when I realize that's too obvious. The red herring is actually my original plan.

Hmmm, maybe that's my problem here. Should my original bad guy be the red herring? And if so, who is the real bad guy? Or do I need a better red herring?

Writing is hard sometimes. At least, doing it well is.

Keep the questions coming. I'm making a list of post prompts.

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