Hitting a Plot Wall

I’ve been ignoring Ben Bones & The Twin Pistols far too long. It’s pure avoidance. I hit a plot wall a full month ago (meaning that I had no plot in mind when I hit it), and I’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since. I’ve been wrestling with various ideas, but… well, if you’re a writer, you know how it goes.

I’m going to make an assumption here: that every writer comes to a place in a story where there ain’t no way to go and the characters aren’t telling me what to do with or to them. For me, it’s the middle of the story. It’s a point the characters are all on stage just standing around loitering and doing nothing to move the story forward. They can’t even think of what to do next, let alone actually do something.

It doesn’t matter that I had a great start, that I had a clear ending scene in mind, that I knew my characters and their motivations. Nope. None of that matters a bit. I simply have no idea of what happens next.

A while ago I hit on a scheme to shake some ideas loose. It’s called a “Major Events” sheet and it provides me with a snapshot overview of what’s going on. It has various points for me as the writer to keep in mind. The headings on the sheet, with explanations, are as follows:

  • Whose story is it?
    Answer: Who is the story about? There can be more than one person, though there is usually a central character.
  • Who’s telling the story?
    Answer: Will one narrator tell the entire story or will various characters take up the tale at different points?
  • What is at stake for whom?
    Answer: This may be your motive.
    Who stands to win something (wealth, status, power, etc.), and who stands to lose something.
    How hard are they willing to fight to achieve their goals?
  • Need conflict between…
    Answer: This may be your plot.
    There can be more than one conflict. In fact, there’d better be or you will have a lifeless one-dimensional story.
  • Problems for the writer.
    Answer: What obstacles can be placed in the characters’ paths?
  • Problems for the Characters.
    Who does what to whom? Why?
    Who blocks another character’s ambitions? Why? How?
  • Sequence of Events.
    Answer: This is how the plot plays out.
    What scenes are vital to the story? Why?
    Who is in those scenes?
    When does each scene have to appear (early, mid-stream, late)?

I hope this will be useful to someone out there in “radio land.” Write and tell me if these scribblings helped you out.

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