08 August 2011

A Writer Hits a Brick Wall

One day our writing flows. The next day we open the exact same manuscript and freeze.

A writer under contract has an advantage in this situation over a writer who is not under contract is that the writer who is being paid to write the book cannot surrender to the doubt. She must find a way to push forward or lose the money, her dreams, the contract.

Take for instance a writer who has two wildly successful novels out with a third on its way and a three-book deal awaiting his attention. Usually a robust writer, on his third book, nothing seems to be working. Even after input from his agent, each time he opens the manuscript, he freezes.

He knows the history and timeline inside and out. He knows the protagonist inside and out, the same character he spent time with in the previous two books. He knows the dramatic action front story goal and has written the story from beginning to end. Something is missing.

Two things come out in the plot consultation:
1) The protagonist is too passive and does not transform
2) A femme fatale is a minor secondary character

A passive protagonist usually translates on the page to mean the character has no passion.

To get the protagonist moving pair him with an equal or better antagonist. Who better than the femme fatale? Readers love relationships. Relationships involve emotion. Chemistry, energy, excitement, passion all come alive through people interacting in real and meaningful ways for a higher good, something the characters and the readers believe in.

The writer finishes the consultation relieved to have plan though he believes there is so much work left to reshape the manuscript. Me? I believe that when he introduces the femme fatale earlier, he'll likely find everything the story needs is all right there. The story is ready to wrap itself around the relationship. The relationship forces the protagonist into action, will make him stumble and fall from grace, and ultimately be transformed.

For immediate tips about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visit Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post. Enjoy!

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