The Writer’s Bear Trap!
Has this happened to you? You’ve been writing your novel and, without warning, you realize that you have written your main character into a situation that there is no escape from. Or, worse yet, your character has taken you to a place where you did not want him/her to go and now you don’t know what to do or how to get them out of the situation and, even worse, you have no idea what the heck this new situation has to do with your carefully planned out novel.
May I suggest — the nuclear option?
The nuclear option, my friends, is what I call following The Beast, which is more politely known as — your subconscious.
It was you that took the story to that corner that you are now trapped in. It is important that you now listen to the inner demons (or angels) in your subconscious that stand ready and willing to lead you back to freedom! If you are lucky, they will be happy to lead you through many more layers of hell, which is always good for a better story, before they send you back to safety and freedom.
When writing Gunning For Angels, I was startled to realize that my main character, Enid Iglowski, went to a place that I did not intend for her to go. I was so dismayed that I stopped writing for three days and simply thought about why I had written myself into this insane corner/trap that had nothing to do with my carefully planned out novel.
After three days of thinking, I decided that maybe my subconscious was smarter than my conscious mind. It was terrifying, but I decided to trust the forces that had brought my character to this seemingly insurmountable obstacle that brought her – and my plot – to a dead stop.
When you have written yourself into a corner, the key is to ask yourself this question: What is the worst possible thing that could happen to my character at this moment?
Dig deep and come with with a no-holds-barred thing that is your deepest, darkest fear and then SLAM it full force into your main character. Have no mercy, pull no punches — be RUTHLESS!
It’s what I call the nuclear option and, strangely enough, it works like a charm!
Delving into your deepest fears and forcing your protagonist to deal with it will bring a new energy and power into your story. It is a plot twist that even you as the writer were not expecting, so there is no way that your reader will see it coming! You will be forced to go to a deeper level emotionally, which will resonate with your readers. If you have the courage to face those fears and be emotionally honest in your writing (always dig to that deeper level of truth!) then it will elevate your writing to new heights and your story will resonate with emotional power.
The subconscious works in strange ways. It will lead you into deep waters and dark troubles, but it will also lead you back to safety.
In the case of my novel Gunning For Angels, the nuclear option took my story to a higher level. It introduced a new aspect to the plot that somehow ended up being the most important and defining moment of my main character’s life. It gave Enid Iglowski an opportunity to discover what she is capable of and how strong she can actually be and it gave me, the writer, the opportunity to discover something new about myself.
If my nuclear option doesn’t work for you, you can borrow Raymond Chandler’s nuclear option, which also works like a charm.
When in doubt, have a man came to the door with a gun in his hand.