What I need to write: All the angles

As discussed earlier, before I get started writing a brand new idea, I need a main character with an arc and a compelling problem that character can take steps to solve. Sounds like a whole book right there, doesn’t it? Yeah, not so much.

Something I’ve realized more and more with each book I write is that to make sure the story’s working, I need to consider not just my main character’s point of view, but the POV of every character who affects the direction of the story. It doesn’t matter how compelling and exciting the conflict is, if the antagonist has no reason to have created this problem in the first place. It doesn’t matter how sweet the romance is, if the love interest only exists when it’s convenient for me to have him or her show up. And if I go into the story without making sure that all of the important characters have reasonable motivations for the things they do, there’s a pretty good chance that story is broken, and either I’ll have to abandon my work completely, or start over from scratch. It’s much better to work these things out ahead of time.

So when I’m playing with a new idea, I’ve gotten in the habit of frequently switching hats. I know why the main character’s going to do what she’s doing in this key scene–do I know why her enemies are attacking her in this way? Does this actually help their cause, or am I making them do it because I thought it’d be a good scene? Would her best friend really turn away from her here, based on their history together, or did I just want an extra dramatic punch? If the answers to either are the latter, then I have some more thinking to do. Maybe I need to figure out reasons that these things would actually happen (which are then going to change the story and the characters). Maybe I need to figure out different things that could happen that do fit the characters.

Not every story can be unbroken. Sometimes I realize that an essential element actually makes no sense at all when I look at it from all angles. Some concepts sound really cool when I only have a vague sense of them, but fall apart under closer scrutiny. No one would ever do that. No one could ever have gotten away with that. The only reasonable way someone could respond in that situation would shut the whole story down.

But that’s okay. At least I usually see the unsealable cracks before I put too much work in, which leaves me a whole lot more time to devote to the ideas that aren’t so broken.

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