Happy New Year Everyone! I’m here every Monday this month, and I wanted to start with the very beginning. Plotting/Craft. I’ts been done, right? We all have our personal twists, and our personal demons. I call mine The Danny Ocean Moment.
“Where do you get your ideas?” used to be the question everyone asked authors. Nowadays, it seems like the question du jour is now “Are you a plotter or a pantser?”
In a way, it’s just as hard a question as the previous. The answers will vary from author to author, even project to project. None of them is the magic bullet that panel audiences are hoping for. And most start with, “Well, I’m a little of both…”
Me? I’m a little of both. I start out with a general road map and bullet points: events that need to happen, who the bad guy is, who ends up together, and who dies. With my fairy tale novel series in particular, certain details need to occur in certain chapters because they alternate between the male and female protagonist’s point of view. I have to stay chronological, informative, and exciting all at the same time…and that does require some small bit of planning.
What’s the most interesting to me now that I’ve finished my third manuscript for the Woodcutter Sisters Series (out Fall 2014) are the things I find myself consistently doing that I didn’t realize. First time’s a fluke, second time’s coincidence, third time’s tradition, right?
Well, now it’s the third time. And for the third time in a row, I’ve gotten to the climactic chapter whose outline includes the bullet point of “Kill the Bad Guy,” and I’ve never actually made any notes on HOW said bad guy is supposed to be extinguished.
So there I am, stuck on this Considerably Important Chapter, and suddenly I’m forced into what I now refer to as “The Danny Ocean Moment.”
If you’re a film buff, you know that Danny Ocean is the main character in the movie “Ocean’s Eleven” (and its sequels), played by George Clooney. Danny is the brains of the operation. He gathers this elaborate crew for an elaborate heist, and when things (inevitably) go wrong, he is forced to improvise.
So when I’m stuck on that Considerably Important Chapter, I put on my Master Thief hat and have a Danny Ocean Moment. I ask myself, “Okay, self, what have you got?” I have a guy with wings. Or a magic sword. Or a girl turned into a goose. I know who has to die and why that needs to happen…and suddenly, everything falls into place. Then I have to stage the scene so that everyone is positioned exactly where they need to be–and with good reason–before the action goes down. Then it all plays out, and the crew goes home with the vault of not just one casino, but three.
Next time you’re stuck in a situation you can’t get out of, put on your Danny Ocean Hat. What do you have? Make a list of your characters that can be available at the time. What special powers/talents do they have? Check the scene: are there any items (like a gun on the mantelpiece) that could be of assistance? What is your enemy’s weakness? Even better: What is your hero’s weakness? And how can he or she overcome that to defeat the enemy?
With any luck (the good kind), you’ll see that the answer to your dilemma was staring you in the face the whole time.