Ella Carey on the web:
Problem solving in your stories
All writers are sometimes faced with plot problems that are impossible to resolve. We all hit points in our novels where sometimes, we are simply stuck.
I write with an element of mystery in my books. Setting up an intriguing mystery is all very well- problem is, you also have to solve it!
But it’s the same for any genre- you need to set up a great premise, but then, how do you solve it?
The best outcome, to me, is to provide readers with what they want, but in a way that they don’t expect.
But what happens when you have set up a great premise, or even a great idea for a scene and you need to resolve things, or move the story forward, and you are simply stuck?
It’s all too tempting to over think these problems, and come up with a complex, convoluted solution- one that readers will see through. You just don’t want that. You want something tricky. You want something they will remember. You want something that they would never have guessed.
Here are some ways that I have found useful when sorting out tricky plot problems.
1. I’ve learned that overthinking simply doesn’t work. All I end up doing is going around in circles and getting very stressed. Instead, I nearly always get away from my desk and go for a walk. I’m a bit of a kinetic thinker, so if I’m out in the fresh air, and deliberately not thinking- an answer will filter into my head.
2. I always bear in mind that I don’t want to use deux et machina ex (coincidence, in English!) to solve a problem in a plot. It’s always best to have your character proactively get in there and find a solution to whatever problem it is they have. That’s something that I always try to bear in mind. The easiest answers will throw themselves at you, but just watch that you are not relying on coincidence to solve a mystery, or get your heroine and hero together, whatever it is you are trying to do.
3. Sleep on it. I often find that I’ll wake up the next morning, with the answer formed in my head. Much like walking, sleeping activates your subconscious and you will just find that the answer will throw itself out there while you rest.
4. If your subconscious doesn’t want to play ball, then my next method is to brainstorm. Just free write a list of possible outcomes for your story- and if you are really stuck, bear in mind that you’ve probably created a conflict that is so hard to resolve, your readers will be kept guessing, and that is exactly what you want! So, brainstorm a great big list of stuff. Your brain will throw out all sorts of ridiculous suggestions. Most of them won’t help. But you need to work through the rubbish to get to the gold.
5. Try to use the adage- ‘all is not what it seems’ in your novel. So, if you have led the reader down the path that a certain assumption is a given, throw it on its head when you find yourself stuck. Think about the implications of ‘all is not what it seems.” Really think about that statement and apply it to your novel’s world. Try turning a big part of your story on its head to solve a mystery, or a romantic problem, so that you intrigue the reader even more.
6. And my last tip, is to turn clichés on their heads. If you are really stuck, think about the most boring, clichéd way you could resolve your plot point. And then do the opposite. Just write what the reader does not expect. After all, that is often one of the most interesting things in life, when all is not what it seems on the surface, then you have a story to tell.
Happy writing! And I hope you enjoy solving your plotting problems in the most creative ways possible!
The House by the Lake
Anna is content with her well-ordered life in San Francisco. But her world is turned upside down when her beloved grandfather, Max, reveals a startling secret: Anna is part of an aristocratic family who lost everything during World War II. What’s more, Max was forced to leave behind a precious item over seventy years ago in their estate in old Prussia. It’s now his ardent wish that Anna retrieve it.
Anna burns with questions as she heads for Germany: What memento could be so important to her grandfather? And why did he keep their history hidden? As she searches for answers, she finds herself drawn to Wil, a man who may hold the key to unlock the mystery. Together they discover that her family’s secrets are linked with an abandoned apartment in Paris, and these secrets go deeper than she ever imagined.
Alternating between 1930s Europe and the present, The House by the Lake illuminates the destiny of a family caught in the tumult of history.
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