I’m in a quandary. There are too many begun but unfinished writing projects on my computer. The ideas are there to start a story, or maybe to paint several scenes, but the plot is always elusive to nonexistent.
When starting a story, I probably have a picture of the opening scene, or perhaps I have the ending clear in my mind. Might even have a few interesting characters worked up. The problem is what to do to the characters to whip them from Point A to Point Z, without them knowing they’re being pushed and without the reader thinking the story is contrived and manipulated. Of course it’s manipulated. That’s the writer’s job, isn’t it? Just as an editor’s hand is supposed to be invisible, just so the writer’s controlling the direction of the characters on their various journeys.
For the readers, character actions should flow from the character’s personality and circumstances. If the writer wants the character to go to the right but the character decides to go to the left, let him/her/it go in their “natural” direction. Force the character and the reader will know. This happens, you know. Characters want to make their own decisions, do their own “thang,” get into and out of trouble by their own efforts. The writer? Nah. Shouldn’t be involved, at least obviously.
I remember one story, The Embezzler Didn’t, in which I had all the characters set up, had them all at one another’s throats and all their schemes ready to go… but I had no plot beyond that point. What did I do? You’ll love this. I threw an earthquake at them and destroyed their town. The company that the characters worked in was revitalized by all the work that came in as a result of the quake, and the characters’ nefarious plots all had to be postponed while their fortunes improved.
Basically, I shook myself up as well as the story’s environment. I had to take the story on an entirely new tack. It worked out quite nicely. I think it’s one of my best books.