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Plotting: Getting Stuck

Originally published at Joely Sue Burkhart. You can comment here or there.

I haven’t posted again on plotting because I’ve sort of been stuck. But then I realized I should still write up an entry for this, because it’s a necessary part of the process. It’s important not to rush or toss a project out just because you’re stuck. You’re just waiting for the right inspiration. :D

Previous posts: Raw Data, Ask the Questions, The Journey

It’s inevitable. Sometimes, no matter how much you love a story, you’re going to get stuck. It’s like trying to put a 5000-piece puzzle together only to realize half the pieces are missing, or worse, two puzzles have been tossed accidentally into the same box. Don’t despair; instead, try to use the “down” time to your advantage. Keep brainstorming. Make lists of words that inspire you. They may or may not have anything to do with the story, but something may shake loose.

Two nights ago, I was walking Ranulf through the Emotional Toolbox, and…It wasn’t working. I’m missing something. Specifically, I’m missing an antagonist. I really don’t know who or what the opposition is.

Oh, well, in the Blood and Shadows world, I know the Shadow is always there, always plotting to corrupt and ruin. But for this story in particular, I couldn’t figure out what the direct and visible opposition in the story was. There are so many goals and motivations overlapping, not just this story, not even just the Keldari Fire stories… Really, not even the Shanhasson trilogy. This world is big and complex, the character cast massive, and the timeline is…infinite. I mean, the battle between good and evil never ends.

Needless to say, trying to hold all of these story threads in my head was getting a little muddled. What did Agni want–and how does that affect all the story coming after, while still staying true to everything that has come before? What, specifically, does Shadow want? I don’t want this to dissolve into the same-old “shadow” story. Good defeats evil, the end. *yawn*

So I put the toolbox questions aside and pulled out a new composition book I bought for 50 cents when I bought the kids’ school supplies. (Hint: change up your routine; try writing by hand or typing instead of how you normally write) I started asking questions on paper, writing those questions down even if I didn’t have the answers.

And honestly, I still didn’t have anything. I knew I was pinpointing the hole better, but I still didn’t have a clue.

Today the monsters went back to school (****YAY***) and both That Man and I took the day off. We drove down to Branson and went to the Imax for the first time (aside: I was actually disappointed with the Imax theater–it was basically like any other theatre. I was expecting more. But no other theatre would have shown the movie early enough in the day for us to see it and get back to pick up the monsters early–they get out an hour early on Fridays). What movie did we see?

The Dark Knight.

And I ask you, how could that movie fail to inspire?

I came out of the theatre wishing I could sit down and watch it again, right now, with a notebook in hand.

One line in particular is still blazing in the corner of my mind. I don’t know exactly what the quote was, but something like “He does it just to watch the world burn.”

Burn the world. Agni, the God of Fire, not a fatherly, kindly god but a blood-thirsty vengeful dragon bent on destroying His own people in purifying fire until their terrible sin has been repaid. While He’s not malevolent, exactly, he’s also not a “good” god either, and the Keldari are cut from the same cloth. They’re not all villains — in their world — but they’re not heroes either. They do bad things, hard things, that most (Shannari more than understands that lines are often crossed in the battle against Shadow) munakuri in their fine houses and fertile Green lands will not understand. Things that must be done, no matter how dark.

Sometimes, the world has to burn.

I discarded “Quench My Fire” as too cheesy and having nothing to do with the story theme. Instead, I’m thinking “Given in Fire.” Keldari fans will know what Given means and why that might be important.

Tonight, more notes in the composition book. Maybe I’ll have more answers than questions this time.

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