I was deep into writing one of the central subplots of my novel, when suddenly the whole thing fell apart. You see, I had presented my character with an obstacle, but the moment she came up against it she came up with a brilliant solution. Problem solved.
Unfortunately, my character’s stroke of brilliance presented a problem for me. How do I trap a character in a situation that she’s determined to pull herself out of?
I want to portray a woman who is smart, determined and resourceful. Having her overlook an obvious solution would be out of character, and it would take more than a minor inconvenience to slow her down.
Here are some solutions I came up with:
- Give her a strong motive. Yes there’s a way past this obstacle, but it includes compromising her values in a way that seems unforgivable. She is forced to find a less effective (more interesting!) solution.
- Tweak the circumstances. Of course she comes up with ways to solve her problem! However, when she tries her plan, it doesn’t work out. Or possibly, when she’s about to try, something unexpected comes up which makes it impossible for her to go ahead with her plan.
- Make her wait. She’s solved the problem, but her solution relies on a few key things. Maybe she’s relying on someone who hasn’t followed through on their promises. Maybe she still needs one more key piece of information that she can’t get her hands on. For some reason, the character can’t put her brilliant plan into action.
- Scrap the sub-plot. If it’s taking away from the story instead of adding to it, it needs to go!
Thank goodness first drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect! I certainly have a lot of reworking to do to make this story work!
Have you come across issues like this in your writing? Which is the best approach to keeping your characters in line?