Making a course correction

I’ve continued to work my way through Martha Alderson’s YouTube workshop on how to plot out a novel, but in this process something that started out as a nagging little thought in the back of my mind continued to grow to such a point that I needed to set pen and paper aside and try to resolve it.  That thought is that there is something about how I’ve defined my main character that doesn’t hang well with the rest of the storyline as I’ve been mapping it out. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the disconnect had nothing to do with the main plot line and everything to do with my character’s key goals and flaws.  They just don’t fit, they’re too convoluted, too contrived, too artificial.  I’m having to make too many contortions to make the jump from the beginning part of the story to the middle 50%.

My choices seemed to be to either keep going, despite the growing discomfort; to scrap the story altogether, despite feeling that the main story and the back story are still solid; or to figure out how to rework that character definition somehow.  (Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter — otherwise there’d be no blog post!)

I decided to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) in thinking about my main character and scrap the psychobabble stuff about her desire to control her kids, being blind to her own weaknesses, etc., etc., and just go with something a lot simpler.

In this simpler storyline, my character and her husband have bought an old house (same as before), and she decides she wants to do what others in the neighborhood have done (and are doing) and get a historical marker on her house.  It’ll take a lot of research and work and dealing with bureaucracy, but she’s become seized with this idea and is enthusiastic about pursuing it.  Her flaw is that she gets a lot of such enthusiasms, rather like Mr. Toad in Wind in the Willows, and will work hard on something for a while before becoming seized with another enthusiasm and setting her first project aside to work on that.  In this, she is very much an “N” in Myers-Briggs terms — an intuitive.  (One advantage here is that I’m also an N and understand this flaw all too well, but that is as far as the autobiographical element in this book will go.)

Once I figured this out, the elements of the story just began to flow together in a much more cohesive and organic way.  It was easier to develop the concept for the beginning quarter of the story — what happens, in what sequence, and so forth — and how that would flow right into the middle line of the story.  It’s been easier to think of how the first chapter would start, how they find the room and begin to realize there is a history to the room and who lived in it.  What a relief!  Now I’m confident I can make better progress in planning the story and then writing it.

On to the next step in Martha’s series!

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