Should you massage your plot?

My writing has been doing ok for the moment, I’m happy with the work I’ve done so far (although it is to first draft levels). Still, my novel is slowly beginning to take shape.

However, I’ve reached a fundamental point in my novel and I’m struggling to move on due to the implications of what needs to happen. The problem here is that one of the protagonists needs to let the group know that she is carrying something important. It’s fundamental to the story but each time I write it I have the nagging feeling that she wouldn’t just say it as I imagine it; part of me thinks she would never tell anyone, and part of me thinks now is not the time for her to give up her secret.

To make things even worse, my go-to notes for this part of the book simply read “characters explain their sitation to each other and move on”. Clearly, I either didn’t think ahead much when I wrote this or, possibly nearer the truth, I’d drank too much cider, realised how hard it would be, and the drunk me skipped past it thinking the sober me wouldn’t notice.

A great example of why this is nagging me so much is the TV series, 24. So many things happen in these series simply because people don’t do what they are told, often to the point of being unbelievable.

* Don’t move, I’ll be back in a bit –  Come back, the person’s moved.
* Don’t shoot, we need this guy alive – Someone shoots him.

* Don’t repeat what I’m about to tell you – Next scene, someone betraying that trust..

However, the series is still highly regarded and is good at keeping people on the edge of their seats. I admit that I still enjoyed it even though I think Jack Bauer has to be the unluckiest person in the world.

I think this overlaps slightly with a previous post I wrote about being true to your characters, although here I’m looking towards being true to the plot. It’s an attempt to further the story but somehow feels forced and unnatural.

So, I seem to have two options;

* Remain true to my character and rework the plotline better to fit in her stubbornness / fear about exposing her secret.
* Massage the plotline slightly and squeeze the situation in to ensure that everything else planned remains unchanged.

One of them is less work, but makes me feel somewhat of a charlatan. The other is probably the right thing to do, but may hold me back from my new first draft mentality of “just…get…it…written…”

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4 comments on “Should you massage your plot?

  1. greyzr says:

    Hmm. I think you know your answer already. 🙂

    • I think you’re probably right. The other issue I have, which I didn’t mention in the post, is that I’ve written a few of the later chapters based on what happens in this particular part of the book. I’ll have to think hard about it this weekend and see whether this is going to cause a ‘butterfly’ effect in the rest of the book.

      • greyzr says:

        I can definitely empathize with the tug-of-war between wanting what you’ve written to ‘be right’ and the ‘pressure of a deadline’. It can be a very difficult balance to find. One trick that helps for me is to set lots of smaller milestones, a checklist if you will, so I can see progress in the face of large effort.

        Best of luck on your project.

  2. hey, thanks for your response. As with many of my reflective posts, I tend to know which way I should go and am often looking for an excuse to take the easy way out. I think your suggestion of setting the smaller milestones / checklist is a good idea – it was something that I did initially.

    IT may be that the biggest problem I had is that once I started writing, and I’m still not sure if this is a result of my desire just to get the first draft out, the book began to take on a life of its own. As a planner, rather than a discovery writer, it’s just something that I’m not used to.

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