Sometimes novel plots can get away from you, especially if like me, you write mysteries or thrillers. Even doing an outline before starting to write won’t stop potential confusion for several reasons.
Characters, especially the main ones, have a habit of taking over the novel and that means directing the plot. Which can be a good thing, because it shows that your novel has life. But when, like me in my Beyond mystery series, you have more than one point of view character, you not only have to deal with one rogue character, but sometimes two. Dana Bowman the main character in Beyond Blood is an outspoken willful PI with a mind of her own. Her fraternal twin brother, Bast Overture her partner in solving crime is a bit tamer. But he is a former crime reporter and the words “reporter” and “journalist’ send out flares of “digging up the dirt.”
So with two nosy-parkers on the loose (often working somewhat separately) and adding in some other characters such as police Detective-Sergeant Donald Fielding and Dana’s six or seven-year old son (age depending on which book), this author is often juggling a lot of plot development.
A disclaimer: I don’t do much of an outline beforehand. Sure, I have some idea of where I want the story to go, but I find if I do too much outline or summary I seem to automatically switch to write-the-novel mode and I’m off in that direction for then.
So, what do I do to try to keep the plot consistent and making some sense?
I do some flipping back and forth to check – maybe after the day’s writing session or perhaps just before I start writing the next time. Or as often happens a couple of niggling plot developments are in my mind and I need to sort them out. So I use the Word “Find” tool to go to these plot developments and from there do one or two things:
Make a note either in brackets in red in the paragraph or whole scene or with the Comment tool about what needs to be changed. I also keep separate files on some areas of plot development that come up and/or I want to put in. Not exactly an outline, but more of a description of what I’m trying to do…at that point. Until Dana and/or Bast step in.
When all else fails I just go in there and make the changes/corrections.
With two PIs I have to make sure they don’t overlap in what they do – unless they are actually doing some of their investigation together. When working alone, they have to keep each other informed of what they find or the reader could wonder “How did he know that?” And do it without long conversations between the two. Sometimes they leave each other phone messages or sometimes I use a couple of short narrative sentences, such as “Bast brought Dana up to speed.”
It gets even trickier in the current Beyond novel I’m rewriting when one of the twins suffers a concussion.
But, hey I like a challenge. It is one of the things that makes writing fiction interesting.
Sharon A. Crawford
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