Expect the unexpected… or not.

Sometimes a character or a side-stories direction can peter out. They will lose direction, interest or momentum. I like to make a side story/character impactful in some way. I generally have an idea where it will go and how it fits in and affects the main story.

What happens when it’s not meeting the mark? It’s time to recharge the story or character.

What do I do? First, I don’t let myself get discouraged. Then I take a break to come back with a fresh perspective and take a good look at the problem. Usually for me the issue is lack of action. Second, I think about what I want to accomplish and can I spice it up. This can take seconds to days or even weeks to come up with a new direction, a game changer. They can be main or subplot twists. They don’t have to be dramatic or huge, subtle works too. That can be tedious to wait for an idea from the deep recesses of my brain. I make two lists to spark inspiration. One is random things that can happen and one of random things that make no sense to the story. They can look like this.

Possible

  • Serious injury
  • car accident
  • wins money or item
  • break in
  • theft
  • finds a big clue or evidence
  • betrayal
  • falls for the wrong person
  • new adversary
  • loss of funding
  • inadvertently kills someone (maybe self-defence)
  • breaks the law
  • saves a life
  • loss of power
  • shift in management
  • new team member or co-worker
  • failed plan

Impossible

  • company suddenly shuts down
  • death of main character
  • death of support character
  • become outlaws
  • bad guys become in charge
  • asked/told/commanded to do something unethical (Great for conflict creation)
  • plans or commits murder
  • spills information or secrets to the wrong guys
  • Takes up arms against allies

I make these lists primarily to put ideas in my head. Often they will lead my mind down a path to something that makes me gasp, sit up and feel excitement. Determining what’s possible and impossible will depend on the base morals of the story and characters within. For this, I’m not worried about foreshadowing, unless it’s really big and needs a little set up. I like surprise, the random things that the reader doesn’t see coming. However I use this in moderation, if it’s a constant storm of ‘what the hell just happened!’ it can distract from the story and turn the reader off. Plot twists are great. Plot turns are fantastic, blowing it to kingdom come… probably not a great way to endear readers to you. I say this because I’ve read books where nothing was foreshadowed, big things happened all the time for no apparent reason and it was frustrating beyond reason to read.

It’s kind of fun to look at where you want it to go, and make a list of the exact opposite and think about what would happen if…

My advice about recharging a lifeless character or plot.
There are unlimited options to stir the pot and rejuvenate a character or story, my actual lists are much longer and really random.  Make some lists and keep an open mind. It’s okay to play devil’s advocate if it saves the story from becoming a Yawn-farm.

-Sheryl

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