A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stumbling Into Muddy Waters

I've written myself into a wall (metaphorically speaking, anyway). My NaNo project has hit a stumbling block, and I have no idea where I'm going to take it. I think I'm about 2/3 of the way through the story at this point, which is a good thing. I'm on the downhill side, but evidently there is a cliff I did not expect.

I've heard many different perspectives on this type of problem. Some people say when you're stuck, kill somebody. I had a hard enough time dealing with one death, not sure if I can do another one. Okay, I guess I am over Trevor's mother dying. But I don't know who else I would kill anyway. So I doubt that's going to be the option I take.

One problem is that the storyline has changed from my initial ideas. See, when I first began telling Trevor's story, I imagined him wanting to get out of town as soon as possible. He is physically different than everyone else around him(significantly so), and he hides (both figuratively and literally) inside a disguise. With the death of his mother (which he is directly responsible for) and discovery of his "differences" by the antagonist, he is on the run. His friend Brent helps him escape from the clutches of the antagonist, and their thoughts are to get him out of the city. They have no idea what is like outside the city (since nobody ever leaves the city), but it has to be better than what punishments await him otherwise.

Then the plot takes an abrupt turn and Trevor discovers this other sector of humanity hiding beneath the city. Trevor meets a woman (Mara) who declares she is his destined wife, and he starts to uncover the horrific truth about humanity's past. The need to know the entire truth drives him further underground towards a mysterious bunker from another era, with Mara becoming comfortably (and uncomfortably) close. The antagonist (not having given up on finding Trevor) breaks up the party again, capturing Brent and inadvertedly collapsing the tunnel end.

So now Mara and Trevor are trapped underground with no apparent escape, just as they are reaching what may be the truth he seeks. They have almost no supplies and no discernable way out. A search through the underground complex reveals some truth about man's past and eventually they find an alternate exit, climbing their way back up to emerge within the sewers beneath the city.

Here is where I am stuck. Trevor's need to escape has disappeared, transformed into a need to stay near this woman. He also has to try to find his friend Brent and free him, if he can. Finally, the chains that have enslaved humanity must be broken. He realizes this, and ...

Here's the crux of it. I have no idea how I get him to save humanity. HOLY FREAKIN' COW, BATMAN! Can I really have created a world so dependent on their own slavery that they cannot exist without it? And how do I get this one insignificant person to overthrow the existing order without causing the city to destroy itself in the resulting chaos?

AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Okay. Virtual scream of frustration finished. I don't have any hair to pull out, so I had to talk through this here. I do have some inklings now that have emerged in my brain, so this wasn't a complete waste of time. Oh, and for those keeping track, I am about a day and a half behind (or so). Most of that is because of these plot issues. But word count wise, I'm a hair below 30K. So I'm not really too far behind. I will be catching up this weekend and hopefully getting ahead even.

So what do you think of the storyline so far? Intriguing enough to read the story? All comments are welcome.


writtenwyrdd said...

Add ninjas or a piano falling from an empty sky. Guaranteed to add something to say.

Seriously, sounds pretty decent as a plan, saving humanity. I think what you are lacking is a quantifiable, short-term goal. What does your protagonist need first? Save his best buddy migtht work. This may require some revision of earlier sections, but if that is what you want to the story up with as your high note, the rescue of a friend (metaphorically speaking, the freedom of enslaved humanity) it'll work emotionally, I think.

The Intern has a great post today that might be helpful for your problem:

Mr. Knucklehead said...

Just do what I always did in ninth grade grammar/comp. "And suddenly, everyone got run over by a truck."

Either that or throw in a car chase.

Whatever happens, if you've seen the film "The Box" you understand that making sense is not a requirement.

Nisa said...

Wow! The story sounds amazing! Good luck finding a solution. I'm sure you'll be able to!

Michelle H. said...

It does sound intriguing. Perhaps at the moment you need to concentrate on just one plot arc even if it's just short-term to get further into the story. Find out the greatest personal need of the main character, what has to happen now, then move along.

distresseddamsel said...

That is one excellent story! I can't wait to see what happens next. What if he faces the first dilemma of choosing whether to save his friend first or start working on a plan to save humanity? Since he has no idea or whatsoever about saving humanity, he has no choice but to save his friend first. In doing so, he uncovers hidden truths about his ability being much more than what was revealed to him, and an ancient secret so powerful it could free a most powerful force that could bring about a thorough world transformation, which means all of his problems would be solved. And needless to mention, he is the designated key that could unlock this force(did that make sense or what?).

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Set your character smaller goals. No one can save the world. That's just too big a goal. But if you set your character smaller goals, things that are attainable, you'll figure out how to save the world. First he has to take care of his own needs, then he has to help his friend, then he has to do something else that's a little bigger.

Or put another way. If you already know that in order to save the world X has to happen, but you have no idea how to get your MC to X, focus on getting him to A. Then to B. And trust in yourself and your characters that the answer is there waiting to be uncovered.

Of course, if you're not sure what X is yet, that's something you need to think about. You can't have a world-ending catastrophe without a way to avert it. Even if that way is so insanely difficult as to be nearly impossible, you have to have it.

Good luck, the story sounds awesome!

Kat Harris said...

Sounds like an interesting story. I agree with what everyone is saying about short-term goals.

Maybe Mara isn't exactly who he thinks she is. What if she is tied to the antagonist in some strange way. You're first 2/3s of the story aren't set in stone. You can always go back in and add little details that offer a glimpse into this kind of turn in the story.

Just a thought.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

THe story sounds amazing. I think the only way you are going to get around this is adding something earlier - some other person or dilemma that could surface at this point in the story and lead you ont othe next step. Good luck with your writing.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I think it’s just a terrific plot, Eric, and I’m not just saying that to be kind, it really does sound good. If you can turn this into a 80—100K word novel, do it. Ideas??? Hmmm. Have to think on it a bit, but, have you thought about asking your kids? They are terrifically inventive…make sure to give them enough of a the plot so they can come up with something realistic. Also, try skipping ahead. Just get the protag and maybe Brent out and start from there. See where they lead you. You’ll do it.

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Kate said...

Sounds like a great plot and I can imagine your frustration. I sometimes find working backwards helps, but if you don't know how it ends that won't do it. I interview characters in my head sometimes too (yes, being mad helps).They tend to come up with ideas I hadn't thought of.