Right now, I'm stuck. It happens. Hopefully not too often. And if somebody can give me some creative mojo to wiggle me out, maybe I'll become "unstuck". They are those moments I've backed myself into a corner and can't seem to find my way out. I hate that. It gives me a major headache. So, this time I thought I'd take a break from murder mystery and "go back to school", so to speak. I needed to look up some advice on developing my plot and get me out of my rut by pointing me in the right direction.
Here's what I've found and maybe if I'm lucky it will help!
Check This #1: Create a plot skeleton, i.e., outline or sketch of what will happen. Keep in mind the main character needs to accomplish something and there will be challenges along the way. This step is not too detailed because quite honestly, points of it will change as you write. The characters will indeed take a life of their own and tell YOU where they need to go and what to do.
Have I done this? Ah, no. Sometimes I wait until so many pages into the story to figure that out. I start with a story idea and then develop from there. But this time, I'm thinking this may be the particular advice I should follow.
Check This #2: Layer the plot, paint it with setting details, make it come alive with well-rounded characters. Remember that the story needs to progress, it will take a journey with sensible twists and turns, ups and downs, to make it interesting and progress toward the resolution. The dynamic characters should experience change, which happens as they experience life. The evil guy in the story may be the static character. This one always remains evil, but you could make him complex with some vulnerable traits, too.
Have I done this? Well ... sort of. Lots of times I will add to the story, flesh out characters, add descriptors when I go back through for my first edit. I really haven't gotten into the story that far yet.
Check This #3: Periodically analyze the action to see if that is where you want to go and don't be afraid to change the course if it doesn't feel right! This is where you can decide if a scene stays or goes. Do the events add to the plot, or do nothing for it? Remember, if you slow things down too much, you lose reader interest. Heck! You even lose writer interest! That's really a bad sign.
Am I doing this? There are a couple of points already where I find I'm rambling. Those areas will definitely have to go.
Check This #4: Pretend you are the character. Sometimes characters come off too mechanical, sometimes too emotional, sometimes ... well, the actions are just plain ridiculous or unrealistic. As the story progresses and your characters must act, ask yourself if that is what you'd do or how you'd react. Question whether the act seems reasonable, senseable. Just because you want the character to do a certain thing in order to force the plot in your desired direction, doesn't mean it's the best choice of action.
Have I done this? Mistake wise? Yes. The reason I know is that when I've gone back and read something I'd written a long time ago and said to myself, "why ever did I think that worked?" or "who would do such a stupid thing?" then I know it's that kind of mistake. This time around? I guess it will have to wait until I let the story simmer a bit. For me, that kind of observation technique most often comes with time.
Check This #5: When the process is slow, stop thinking so much. I know this sounds contradictory to all points above. However, there are times when you get so bogged down, like your sinking deeper and deeper into that quicksand. I've read that it's because you are stopping to rethink everything you've just written, re-edit, re-write, re-everything! Do I do this? Most definitely!
Am I doing this with my current WIP? Oh boy, am I ever! Why else would I be here, writing this article instead of writing my story? The idea is to simply write and continue to write without editing, UNTIL the story is finished. Soooooo very hard for me to do! And really, I think it's because I'm not sure where I want to take this plot. Hence, I refer back to Check #1. I guess that's what I'll do.
Check This #6: When the story ends, check it all! Okay, this one's a biggy! I call it crossing all the i's and dotting all the t's of my story. In mysteries this is extremely important. In my recent publication, DYING TO DREAM I found myself crosschecking everything, lots of times. Matching up events, times, character interactions, experiences until I felt my eyes cross! Now I've decided the best way to keep from making so many mistakes that will need to be checked and double checked is to take notes as you write. What this character does, where that one goes, when this one does this or that. It's time-consuming, but it will help. Of course, if you just use those beta readers who offer to read your story, they might catch those inconsistencies for you! So much the better.
Am I taking notes this time? Ahhhhhhh ... Okay, getting out the pad and pen to start, but first? Going back to try developing that plot skeleton!
Bottom line? If all else fails, just write the darn story! It might not be the most productive and sensible approach, maybe it will leave you lots of work to do at the end. But at least you'll have a completed story, and plenty of time to revise, revise, revise!
P.S. These are just a very few of the multitude of tips out there on writing and developing a plot. I think this was mostly a cathartic exercise for me, but hopefully it helps all of you, too!