The contortions a writer goes through in crafting a workable plot are really too convoluted to be worth describing. Compared to plotting, jumping through hoops would be a picnic. Most often I’m able to get where I want to go; or, to put it another way, to get the story to go where the story needs to go. But sometimes talking my way out loud through the coils of a perplexity can be useful.
If nothing else, explaining the conundrum to another person forces me to articulate the various factors that are impinging on the plot. That in itself can help. Sometimes the person who is listening to my rant may come up with a great suggestion; that’s even better. Also, talking about the book to someone who is obviously interested can boost my morale. All of which are good reasons to brainstorm.
Sadly, I live alone and have no ready access to interested listeners. So here we are, wandering lost in the vast impersonal space of the internet. Comments are encouraged.
Here, in a large and lumpy nutshell, is the briar patch into which I have tumbled. (No apologies for the mixed metaphor. It describes the situation pretty well.)
A boy and a girl are trekking through a dangerous swamp on an impromptu quest. (The goal of the quest may not be relevant; it has to do with a sort of Holy Grail that the boy’s father pawned for drinking money some years before.) He is 18 or 19, she is 17 or 18. They have only recently met. They’re attracted to one another, but the boy can’t stop thinking about another girl, who is not present and who for all he knows is dead by now, who is his True Love.
The boy and girl are just about to, ah, you know. G-rated book, but tongues are mentioned and groping has commenced. They’re interrupted by a band of nasty little elf-demons with stone-tipped spears. The elf-demons tie them up and take them off to the elf-demon village. The villages is in treehouses, which may or may not be relevant. At dawn, the captives will be tossed off of the edge, where a mad god will tumble them in the air for a while and then dunk them into a pool, where large piranha will chew them up and they will die.
But that’s not the problem. I’d kind of like this dramatic action to be seen rather than just threatened by the evil chief of the elf-demons, but that’s not the problem either.
I can rig it so that one or both of them escapes this dire fate. Slice the rope with the magic knife (yes, the boy has a magic knife), kick the elf-demons off of the edge, climb down the rope ladder, and run. Piece of cake.
No,the problem is that during this incident I need to drive a wedge between the boy and the girl, so that the impending romance (or lustful encounter, if you prefer) quite definitely fizzles out. The girl needs to run away, hurt or repelled or something. That way, the boy will turn around, get out of the swamp, and go off to find his True Love. And I can’t do it by having the boy do something ugly or insensitive, because he’s The Good Guy. He’s destined to marry his True Love. So he can’t be a bastard — but somehow, in the midst of this gripping action, the girl needs to freak out and run from him.
She can’t very well abandon him to his fate and run off by herself leaving him tied up in the treehouse, because she has already saved his life once (in an earlier volume of the saga). That would be inconsistent. And since she has the hots for him, it would take something pretty major for her to change her mind.
She has trust issues; we’re fairly sure of that. She also has a hawk or falcon who is a sort of familiar — there’s a mind link between them. Could the boy perhaps kill the hawk in the process of saving their lives? Maybe, but wouldn’t that make him kind of a bastard?
I may have to kill her to get her out of the story, but I purely hate to do that, not only because I like her but because if this series is successful, she may turn out to be the heroine of a spinoff series somewhere down the road. Her and her hawk, roaming around.
How can a Good Boy stupidly give a Good Girl the impression that he’s Truly Awful, so that she runs off leaving him to almost certain death in a dangerous swamp, so that he never sees her again and doesn’t feel too awful if he tries to run after her and apologize but can’t find her? How can I get her out of the picture and leave him not feeling too bad about walking away?