Wednesday, January 05, 2011

How I overcome story problems

Just like every other writer on the planet, sometimes I come to a story impasse. Sometimes they last hours, sometimes days, sometimes even weeks. But I always end up solving them the same way: going through each character's natural reactions one at a time.

So here's the latest example. I had two major options for the final setpiece of my story.

1) Have my bad guy kidnap my protag's love interest and call her to a final showdown.

2) Have my protagonist go on a mission involving her friend, at which point the bad guy would track her down and they'd fight.

My story wouldn't allow me to do both, so if I use option 1 I lose the friend angle that I like, but if I go with option 2 I lose the love interest angle that I like. I like option 1's location better, but fell like option 2 gives me a more cohesive story.

I've also been having difficulty giving my character a true lowpoint in her story where her love interest hates her and her career is in the toilet and she doesn't know what to do.  Neither options really allows for this either.

(Disclaimer - I am not a fan of formulaic writing and don't subscribe to a particular guru, but I do like the lowpoint thing from Snyder so I use that. I take what I want from the gurus and leave the rest - kind of like the Bible.)

I went around and around on this one for a couple of days, unable to make up my mind. Then in the morning I started thinking, okay, let's start earlier.

My characters are in the bad guy's apartment, then leave to run an errand. That's when bad guy comes back. What would she do? She would find her key and unlock the door.

Well wait, if they just went to run a quick errand - didn't even leave the building - wouldn't they leave the door unlocked? And if they did, she would certainly notice and realize that someone had been in her apartment and that they were coming back. All she has to do is wait. Then she shoots at them, then they run, then she chases....

And that opened me up for option 3, the winning idea that solved all my problems.

So whenever I'm stumped, I always know the answer is in logic. Well, what would they do next? And then? And then? And what would the other guy do? And then?  And then?

And eventually you can let their natural actions figure the story out for you.


  1. Love the blog. Just found it. Pretty sweet.

    I'm a fan of option 2(or the winning #3), mostly because it has the protag being more active.

    Hope you nail it.


  2. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Thank you for this. I have been struggling for a while with the same issue (story) in my own script(s). I've been trying to rush through it instead of taking the time to listen to each character closely to hear what their next steps would be.


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