How to overcome story problems – quickly!

This is a problem that pantsers, rather than planners, will face almost every time they site down at the keyboard. You’ve written yourself into a corner and your story problems are out of control.

I’ve been there. You’ve been really productive, and you then face one of the hardest things that you will ever have to do when writing. Overcome an immovable object that you at some point created. This is usually in the form of a rule that just won’t budge, or a character needing to do something that is completely against their nature.

These type of story problems usually come up when writing supernatural or science fiction, but it can transcend from genre fiction to the mainstream. How will little Billy cross the river, when you made him unable to swim in act one? Or what happens if the vampire needs to go out in the day to save their one true love?

First of all, you should congratulate yourself. Almost every good script has a moment when the lead character, or the audience or (preferably) both, look at the situation and think “I’m not going to be able to solve this”. It’s the all is lost moment, and without one a script can seem bland or boring. I reckon that almost every writer who has written something really good has had plot problems like you’re experiencing.

The key thing is to not let this derail you.  Your brain is stuck on one track and you start to convince yourself that there’s absolutely nothing that you can do to overcome it. Then that other project you’re working on starts to look a little more tempting. You start to procrastinate and ignore the problem. Then, before you know it, you’ve moved on and the project is dead.

So how does one get around this? There is one main way I use, so I thought I’d share it.

Fix story problems by starting at the end

What does the final situation in your story look like? Who survives? What have they learnt? You should already have a rough idea. Now, try and join the dots between the resolution and where you are stuck.

A strand, a thread should start to form. At this point, it doesn’t need to make sense. If the only way to resolve it is aliens beaming people up, have aliens beam people up.

Within that first link will be the seeds of your story. Aliens probably won’t work, but what about a police raid? Maybe the family member from act one reappears?

Once you know a little more about where your going, obstacles will shrink in front of you and you’ll be more productive as a result.

If it’s just the act of writing that’s stumping you, have a look at my other articles, which will help you get back writing again.

Alternatively, you could start planning your stories better… some people don’t like this, but Lucy Hay over at Bang2Write has a really good guide on writing outlines.

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