Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Puzzle With Plots

As a kid, I remember playing with sliding puzzles, the ones where you slide one piece into place, but you have to move a bunch of others out of the way in the process. When you move one piece it shifts everything else, and they were so tricky, I think I just gave up on them as some kind of a that-would-be-nice-to-see-what-it-looks-like-finished-but-I-doubt-I’ll-see-it-in-my-lifetime puzzle.

Well, this same thing occurs in writing, and I like to call it the plot puzzle. For me this happens not so much in the outline, but when I’ve written the first draft and am combing it through it, trying to turn it into a masterpiece. (Because sometimes I can overlook plot holes or weaknesses that could be changed to make it better.)

Unfortunately, this can lead to a rearranging of sorts—kind of like those sliding puzzles—because when I move or change even one thing, everything else in the story shifts with it.

This is how it works in my mind: How can I make the meat of the story more juicy? I can add yada-yada. But if I do that, then I’ll need to add something to chapter one to include this yada-yadaness, and maybe something else in chapter three to tie it in. Oh, but if I do that, then this means that this major part will need to be revamped. Hmmm. What else can I do to make it better?

Sometimes I just let things go. Other times, revamping is necessary. But I find that writing a detailed outline from start to finish helps to keep my thoughts on track. Often as I do this, ideas will come, and others I’ll scratch. But in any case, I find that creating an outline helps me to solve the plot puzzle to make a good story even better.