When something like having an unexpected turn of events in your story happens, you might want to let everything to rest for a couple of days. The reason for that is because you really need to think twice before you make some really big changes in your story.
Let‘s say that you are writing a story about a character who is on a road trip because he needs to get from City A to City B in two days or he might miss his daughter‘s wedding.
On his way from A to B all sorts things happen to them; he has a flat tyre; someone steals his car so he needs to hitchhike; someone finally picks him up and that person turns out to be a man who is also going to the wedding, but he is going to stop a woman from marrying the wrong guy and try to convince her to marry him instead. During the rest of the trip, your character is trying to persuade this guy to give up.
You have your major plot points, and you are trying to build a story around them. You are adding details and your synopsis is almost done but then you have an unexpected plot twist
They arrive at the wedding, it‘s the same town, same church, same pastor, same time, but the wrong date!
For some reason, your character is one month early for the wedding. He thought it was August, but actually, it is July and now he thinks that he has maybe ruined this guy‘s last chance to win his dream girl.
What do you do know?
Quite naturally, that idea will sound awesome in the first glimpse. That‘s something unexpected, and that‘s something that every writer is wishing for. But does it really work? Can you really trust your gut on this or should you think twice? If I were you, I would wait a couple of days before moving on and in the meantime, I would double check everything.
Does it make sense
That‘s what I always check when something like this happens and I would spend the whole day thinking about it whether I like it or not.
My first concern here would be whether can someone really make that kind of a mistake? It sometimes happens that people can confuse days; they think it‘s Wednesday when it‘s actually Tuesday and it often happens. Therefore, I would probably consider changing that.
Check if it impacts anything else
Now when you gave validation to this new story ending, let‘s see how it impacts everything else? Do I have to change anything in the beginning? How does this correlate to my backstory? Do I have to invent something in the backstory to justify this event? Do any clues appear during the story which might suggest that something is wrong but both the reader and the protagonist might miss it because it seems insignificant?
Let‘s try to anser these questions:
- Maybe I don‘t have to change anything at the beginning, but let‘s say that the guy drops his phone, it cracks; or maybe he loses his glasses and he doesn‘t have time to get new ones; that way, it would be even more difficult for him to realize what date it is.
- What if he couldn‘t sleep for some time because he was nervous about the wedding and maybe once he was late for his daughter‘s recital and she has been mad at him ever since? That would make his desire to be on time even stronger.
- What if they hear the score of the football game which is always played on Thursday, but he doesn‘t realize that it‘s Thursday and not Friday because he is more concerned about his team‘s defeat?
The list should go on and on until you are satisfied and pick the best one. These brainstorming activities are one of my favorites but they are not always easy to do.
Check the both ways
Now when you have your A version, where your protagonist arrives at the last moment, and the B version of the story where he arrives a whole day earlier?
Check which one do you like the most? Do you maybe need to move some of the plot points? Let‘s say that in story A the protagonist hitchhikes a car at the midpoint and the rest of the story is struggling to persuade the other character to stop ruining his daughter‘s life.
But, what if in B story that happens at inciting incident and we settle the arrival at the wrong wedding at the „all is lost point“ and now your character regrets saying anything to this man because that bride is perhaps really making a mistake and until the rest of the story he wants to revert everything back to the original state.
If I were you, I would juggle between these two versions, setting different events on different plot points until I‘m fully satisfied and perhaps come up with a third, unique version.
To sum it up, I personally believe that a story construction is really a matter of proper „What if?“ questions and the longer you play with them, the better answers you can get.
I hope that you could learn something from this train of thought that I purposely produced for the sake of writing this blog post. My new doesn‘t have anything to do with this structure or characters but I‘m sort of in the same pat position in which I cannot decide what ending to chose so I decided to take 72 hours break; usually, that‘s enough for me.
Do you have similar troubles when constructing your story? Tell us in the comment‘s section below.