Tweet of the Day: EOW Parade of Victory
Time for that old pet peeve of mine, consistency. I’ve written about this many times before, but I figured there was something missing. To wit, my insistence on sticking with the internal logic/consistency of a work could lead to the very death of the work.
How can a character grow if they have to stay rooted to their premise?
What happens when the premises of the setting get in the way of a good scene or plot?
The answer lies with the If…then statement.
You remember those math word problems everybody hated in school. If X, then Y….
For example, If character X is Courageous, then he may also be Impetuous (where y=Impetuous). You have a character with an admirable trait, but one that could lead him into trouble. Or If character X is Courageous, then he may also be Egotistic, that is the reason why he leaps into the fray may have nothing to do with altruism. Think of the character premise as the foundation of the character from which you can build up the character’s arc. Instead of being a wall that prevents growth, it shows where you could go. The character(s) above could learn patience or self-sacrifice as they face the consequences of their reckless behavior. That is growth based on the existing premise, instead of an arbitrary change just for the sake of “growth”.
Plotting is a bit more difficult in that the premises of the story are not embedded in the plot, but in the setting. Here proper world building helps as does interrogating your manuscript thus:
The Inner Outline is about taking what you already have and growing it. It is about asking some key questions about your narrative;
Where am I?
What is going on?
Where do I go from here ?
It is the point where you stop talking (writing) and start listening (take notes). By doing this you can step back for a moment and see the narrative as a whole. You allow your characters to speak with their own voice. And you start seeing the paths ahead. You don’t need to ask all the questions at once, nor answer them, but by asking these questions as you write will illuminate the narrative by pulling you back and seeing the forest and the trees.
These questions are vital in that they keep you the plot in line with the setting and allow you to explore the premises set in the setting inside your plot. Instead of being a slave to a particular scene, look within the setting and see what are the possibilities that the premises hint at. You can also use the If…then statement structure, just like you can interrogate your characters. I often get writer’s block when I force my characters to act in ways outside their parameters, i.e. who they are or could be.
Finally, if all the above is too complicated for you, take a couple of aspiring, relax and see if this helps. Think of a premise, not as a stand alone concept, but as a bundle of ideas. The premise stands at the center, as you ask questions and follow the threads you can see your plot/characters develop/grow without a need for inconsistencies or contradictions.