So the other day my husband and I took our kids to see Hotel Transylvania 2. Don’t worry, I’m not going to blog about the movie (er, wait until it comes out on video…or just skip it entirely).
Anyhow, my husband and I didn’t like the movie and I told him the reason why is there was no plot. No GM + C. No…nothing.
That discussion progressed to us kvetching about cop-out endings and it reminded me of a series of tweets Emma Coats did about Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. Twenty-two awesome rules of storytelling.
I showed my husband #19:
“Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.”
And I realized that’s exactly what I’m doing with the second half of my book. Everything is a coincidence.
See, I’ve been reading through it, supposedly to “edit” it, but it turns out I’m reading it to see
how awful it is what I’m missing. But it’s starting to become clear to me WHY it’s so bad stuff is missing. I’m breaking about a dozen of Ms. Coats’ storytelling rules, especially #19.
My problem, I think, is that I have a mystery in my story. There’s evidence Nate needs to find to prove Susannah’s uncle is a traitor, but before he can find it, he’s put in the clink. So Susannah needs to be the one to find it, because she wants to save Nate (and I want my heroine to rescue the hero – I’ll admit I’m writing a 21st century novel set in the 19th century). Yet the way in which I have her finding that evidence is just…coincidence.
And it’s stupid.
I’ve been nagging my CP for ideas and she’s hit upon a good one, but I’m still left wondering how to make it all work and make it plausible…not just coincidence.
This is forcing me to really evaluate what I’ve written from a straight story perspective. I’ve started taking all of my scenes and breaking them down into basics. For each scene, I’m evaluating:
- What’s the purpose of this scene?
- What are each character’s GMC?
- What are the beginning stakes? The ending stakes?
- What changes for each character both internally/externally when this scene ends?
I think what I’m trying to come up with is a decent outline that shows me the progression of each character’s internal and external GMC, as well as the overall trajectory of the book, particularly the mystery part. I have already learned that I drop Susannah’s uncle as a POV character (he’s got a prominent POV in the first half of the book, then practically disappears in the second half). I definitely have way too many coincidences. And I don’t think there’s enough conflict between Susannah and Nate.
I hope that mapping out each scene will show me the bigger picture of my story, as well as the tiny details that have me heading down the wrong path. And help me create a good, plausible, solvable mystery. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
What strategies do you have when it seems your characters are falling victim to coincidence? If you write mysteries or romantic suspense, how do you take a step back to see how it’s all going?