Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm sifting through the fog that is my brain to see what I can possibly blog about today. Usually I'm struck by too many ideas, but a nasty head cold has inhibited my ability to think.

Since the WIP is forever on my mind, I'll pull something from that. I'll just take a sip of my hot cocoa and… Oh, oh! I know! Let's talk about stakes and when to up them, huh? Conflict is always good to blog about.

I write urban fantasy, but what I really write is action adventure stories with a paranormal twist. Therefore I come up against the same challenges as any genre writer, such as keeping the stakes high, or just throwing substantial obstacles at the characters to keep the story moving.

A problem I often have is coming up with an obstacle my character can believably overcome. I can think of the obstacles just fine, but I end up creating a problem so heinous that the real challenge is resolving it so the story can move on. That's the fun of writing fiction. I may lay awake at night trying to come up with the best way for my character to fix things, but I know that if I'm worried, the reader will be worried to. Which is the ultimate goal of writing a compelling story.

Just the other day I had a scene all planned out in my mind. The bad guys were holding a minor but important character against his will. In fact, he was being tortured into cooperating with the villain who needed him to perform a type of ritual magic that will summon a fallen angel that the villain wants to bargain with. Well, my heroine would really like to free this poor guy, especially since she feels partially responsible for his capture (which she is), so she lies to the villain and tells him she can perform the ritual herself. Let the innocent guy go.

There, on the page, right before my eyes, the villain says, "He's already dead." What the--? Oh, great. He can't be dead! I need him to help the heroine in a future scene! Yet as resistant as I am to this problematic outcome, it makes sense for it to happen. Elements of the story came together this way for a reason. And somehow I'll make it work. My heroine needs me to, or she's a goner. The fallen angel is, after all, her father.

I know we've blogged recently about how our characters take us by surprise, but it's never a boring subject. At least not to me. Has this happened to you recently? I'm guessing yes. 8^) Want to share?

6 comments:

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen -- Sorry about the cold. Bummer. I have had two and a half so far this year so my quota has been met. Do you hear me cold gods (shaking my fist in the air)!

This is an interesting subject to me, too. I will admit that I love things to happen the way you said -- a character turns up dead out of nowhere, etc...-- but I don't always allow it to stay that way. Sometimes the crazy thing that pops onto the page is a wonderful idea with no future. It happens. Not that it happens to you or that it will this time, but I guess I sometimes have to have a heart to heart talk with my imagination and tell it to get a grip! If his being dead is good in other ways, then I might kill him after he does what I need him to do, and maybe then the reader's emotional connection to him will be even greater as he did the wonderful thing before he died and it has even more power.

This is just me telling myself I cannot have the current bad guy rig a three month old baby's car seat over the river with ropes and then have the hero have to cut the ropes or shoot his wife. No, Alice. Bad, Alice.

Ooh, but I do like the idea of having to make an impossible choice. Too bad I only have nine more pages to wrap his sucker up. Something tells me the middle is going to get a major re-haul.

I digressed.

Drink lots of liquids, get plenty of rest, and eat chicken soup.

Oh, and take Nyquil...

Karen Duvall said...

Ooh, but I do like the idea of having to make an impossible choice.

You think? 8^) Talk about impossible choices. Yeah, you got that one nailed. Sheesh. I suck at those. You know that old question about if your spouse and your child were drowning, which one would you save? Aaaaah! That's awful to even think about.

For my dead guy dilemma, it will work out because dead guy isn't really dead. The villain and my heroine just think he is, but faking his own death was his only way to survive. He "comes back to life" after his body is transported out of there.

Have fun at the party tonight. Wish I was going, but considering how sick I'm feeling, it's best that I'm not.

Alice Sharpe said...

I wish you could be there, too, but I won't miss getting another cold!!!!

Have a warm and comfy night.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Sorry you're under the weather, Karen. I hope you're feeling better tonight.

I blogged about things happening that I didn't plan, so yes, it happens to me. I love it when it does because usually it means my subconscious is two steps ahead of my brain (or fingers) and *generally* it takes the story in the right direction for me. Though not always.

I, also, like impossible choices. Alice, your hero's choice sounds like a doosie...and I love it. I hope you use it - and of course find a way to save them both. Those impossible choices are the kind that keep me up reading until 3am. I gave the hero in my book that same sort of impossible choice - save the woman he's fallen for or save his race. He can't have both. If he saves her, it'll be the start of a war that will eventually bring down his race. What's a poor hero to do????

Danita Cahill said...

The twists and unexpected turns are what make a story really interesting. Sometimes when I'm writing I forget that and have to rethink for a more unusual spin of events.

Hope you're feeling better, Karen. Wish you could have been there last night -- feeling well and with bells on.

Paty Jager said...

Twists and turns are what make a story a good read. Keeping the reader on their toes.