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.
You meet the man of your dreams! He’s gorgeous, he’s successful, he knows exactly what to say to make your nether regions careen drunkenly South to Rio De Janeiro to do the samba all night long on some sultry Balneario beach. You want him so bad that you’d climb over your dead mother’s carcass to get to his goods. We’ve all been there — don’t deny it! As time goes by, it gets even better. You gaze wonderingly into his eyes, you share your dreams, your fears, your most intimate fantasies, but – finally, when that moment cums — I mean arrives — it’s Dudsville.
Welcome to the movie ‘Life.’
The performance of the actors is stellar. The set design is a nerd’s wet dream. The monster is exceptional, but…
The scientists are muttonheads.
I’m going to old-school it now – by referring to my personal gold standard of all alien movies – the ‘Alien’ franchise, written by the genius Alan D. Foster (series 1-3).
A (paraphrased) example:
Anyone in the Aliens movies (1-3): Oh my god! We have to save our friend from these horrible monsters!
Ripley: It’s too late. Let him die.
Then Ripley goes on to save herself and humankind.
In the movie Life:
Anyone of the so-called Scientists in Life: Oh, my god! We have to save our friend from this horrible monster!
The other so-called Scientist: Yes, let’s save our friend! So what if the alien is attached to our friend’s leg and he is sure to die – let’s risk the survival of all of humankind and try to save our doomed friend!
Oh, did I mention that already?
For future reference, here’s the three-part recipe to this type of movie:
- There is always one character who has the ability to cut through all the bullshit and see the TRUTH. Ripley and, to some degree, the Jake Gyllenhaal character, understands that the individual must be sacrificed to save humankind from extinction at the hands of the monster.
- One character is secretly working against the group. In the Alien franchise, it was Ash, Burke, Golic, and Dr. Wren. In Life, it was maybe Ariyon Bakare.
- And, most importantly, you must have an ALIEN “whose perfection is only matched by it’s hostility.”
The problem with Life is that:
- The scientists each have a critical moment when they can save everyone (and humankind!) by sacrificing themselves or a friend, but they don’t.
In the words of Crazy Horse before the Battle of the Little Big Horn, “Hokahey, today is a good day to die!”
‘Life’ could have been a classic! If only the writers had given the scientist characters their own Crazy Horse moment! If the writers had given each scientist a moment where they at least tried to sacrifice their own life to save the group — and humankind — this movie would have been a contender.
In the meantime, to keep frustration at bay —
there is always the Alien series —
Must enjoy compelling characters, murder & having expectations overturned.
You’ve slaved for years to create this beautiful creature that you lovingly call ‘my book’ and when you release it into the world, it is welcomed with the sound of…
Why is it so hard to get people to review your book?
I don’t have an answer to that particular question, but I do have advice for all writers of undiscovered masterpieces:
Don’t count on your friends and relatives to read and review your book!
Strangers are more willing to read your book and are often more kind.
This is harsh, but this is the truth.
First, your relatives and friends who love and care for you might not love and care for the genre that you are writing. It is better to find strangers who enjoy your book’s genre.
Second, your friends and relatives know you too well and they will not be able to separate the person they know you to be from the fiction that you are writing. I posted a short story online and shared it on Facebook and I had three friends call me and ask if I was getting a divorce.
Third, when you do ask your friends and relatives to read your masterpiece and they don’t do it and don’t even bother to open your book to page one – you will have a lot less resentment to deal with. I know exactly who read my book and who did not. The people in my life who read my book will always have my forever, undying gratitude and the people who have not bothered to even attempt to read my book, well – they have been left out of my Final Will & Testament.
Are you a stranger?
Here’s my sweet baby of a book! If you don’t like the genre, please feel free to dump it at the nearest book orphanage or pass it on to someone who doesn’t know or love me.
I know that everyone is raving about the new Beauty and The Beast movie that is currently in theaters, but if you are a fan of the movie, do yourself a favor and watch Jean Cocteau’s 1946 French film La Belle et la Bête. From the ‘hands’ that hold the candles in the Beast’s castle, to the sumptuous over-the-top costumes, to the eerily beautiful special effects that give the movie a distinct magical realism feel – this classic movie is a must-see criterion experience for all ages.
My husband got the movie for me as a Valentine’s Day gift several years ago and we re-watched it last night as we celebrated our 12th year wedding anniversary. If you have someone special in your life, this is the perfect movie for a romantic evening together.
Sending out a huge ‘Thank You’ to Lizzie Hayes and Dot Marshall-Gent for reviewing my novel!
‘Gunning for Angels’ by C Mack Lewis
29 July 2014.
Meanwhile, ageing Police Detective Bud Orlean and his son Chip also become locked in a domestic battle when Chip announces that he has quit medical school to become a writer.
Dot Marshall-Gent – worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties. She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues. Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.
Thank you again to Lizzie and Dot for promoting authors of crime fiction!
So, what does a Podiatrist do in her spare time? I’ve discovered the strange and fascinating world of creating memes. Some are niche podiatry humor, some are silly and some are mildly profane. You will quickly deduce that I spend a good portion of my work day trying to convince patients to stop walking barefoot and to wear Rx Crocs as bedroom slippers in the house. It may come as a shock to you, but most patients are resistant to giving up barefoot walking and are horrified at the thought of wearing the aesthetically lovely Rx Crocs that have the transformative power of turning the most beautiful woman’s feet into looking like two bulky box-cars! By the way, if you have foot, knee, hip or lower back pain – the Rx Crocs Specialist as a bedroom slipper will decrease the pain by 30% within 3 weeks. Give it a try and I think that you will be pleasantly surprised.