Friday, 18 August 2017

August Round Robin: Getting your Plot Moving Forward

The topic of our Round Robin for August is: When you are stumped on moving a plot line forward, what do you do to reinvigorate your imagination and get your characters moving?

My post today is going to be very short, because whenever I am stuck in my story - and it happens more often than I would like - it's basically because of one of the following two reasons: either I have lost touch with my characters; or there is something wrong, somewhere, in the story and I know it, but tackling it requires far more energy and imagination than I feel I have, so I am trying to ignore it and plod on...and it doesn't work.
Losing touch with my characters happens quite a lot in my case. First of all because I have a day job and can't spend as long as I would like writing and focusing on my stories. But also because I get too enthusiastic about researching background information, and easily sidetracked by facts and anecdotes I find fascinating but which, although more or less relevant with what's going on in my story, distract me and take me further from the heart of the novel - the characters.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Of course, I can try the usual remedies, which quite often will help get my story going again: a long walk, a conversation with myself (I do that quite a lot) or with a trusted friend about my story, eating lots of cakes in the hope that the sugar rush will stimulate my imagination...

But sometimes I need to go back to the very beginning, and the most important: the characters, their essence, motivations, personality, flaws and qualities, what makes them unique.
I look at my notes, start reading my story from Chapter One all over again, and try to recapture my feelings for my hero and heroine, and that wonderful enthusiasm and passion I feel when starting a new story and I am completely in love with my characters. With luck it won't take too long before the characters talk to me again and I can hear them, see them, and fall in love with them all over again. Then they can sort the mess they have made later on in the story, and get the plot going!

Once, for my contemporary romantic suspense A Spell in Provence, all I needed to get the story flowing again was to change the name of my heroine - from Alex to Amy. How odd that a simple change of name should open a whole lot of new possibilities.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
However if the characters still aren't talking to me and don't get the story moving, then it is probably a sign that something is drastically wrong with my plot, and I may have to rethink my novel, which is very scary.

This could involve reviewing my characters' motivations, getting rid of a character - or create a new one - or tackling the novel from another angle. It could also mean starting the story from a completely new place.
This happened when I was writing The Dream Catcher. I reached about 20,000 words and got stuck - really stuck. Something wasn't right. My plot wasn't going anywhere. It felt contrived. I left it for a while, then had a rethink and changed the starting point of the story. And as if by magic, the words starting flowing and everything fell into place... Well, it wasn't quite as easy as that, of course, but at least it worked!

If I have tried all that and I still can't get the plot going, then it might be a sign that there is only one thing to do. Give up. At least for a few weeks or months. I hate giving up on a story, but I have done so in the past. Some stories I have picked up again. Some are still dormant in my computer and my mind - but dormant isn't the same as dead. I will write them one day when I figure out what is missing and how I can fix it...

The following authors are taking part in the Round Robin and would love a visit from you!