Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Big Fix

I have a Red Sox room on the third floor in my house, but it’s not quite the kickin space I want it to be. Sure, we’ve got posters, B pillows, pennants and signs, but we have three televisions up there—one so old it has UHF and VHF dials, haha—and none of them work. Well, one works technically, but if you turn it off, you might not get it to come back on. The TELEVISION is a vital element to any sports room. What’s the point of having a sports room if you can’t, well, watch sports? I suppose we could grab chilled Cokes, pop some popcorn and discuss sports in it, but we can just as easily do that in the kitchen, which we do. So why bother to pack bags and make the long hike?

Since we want a properly functioning electronic device to top off our Red Sox domain, and with it being a sales-tax-free day today, we’re off to buy a new one. We definitely won’t be getting a plasma or anything with HD on the box because we’re not exactly rolling around in an extra 2 grand—or 4 grand if we're talking about the beauty we really want—and even if we were experiencing a windfall, we have two grammar-school-aged sons, who don’t at all grasp the concept of "hands off". We just want a TV that works.

We have all these has-been TVs that used to work well, were probably spectacular in their day, but they’re now headed for the heap...which oddly reminds me of ideas, that can start off great and end up going bust.

Sometimes you think of fantastic ideas. I know I have...just in case you couldn’t tell by my Creativity Gone Wild page.

Here's a jewel: I think all cable boxes should come with a pager button, that way when you lose your remote, you can make it buzz or beep or belch when you need it. Finding that sucker would be sooooo much easier, unless of course, it ended up in the freezer when you went to get that pint of Phish Food. Don’t worry. You’ll find it on your next trip. Comcast wasn’t that impressed with my much-desired concept. At least, I haven’t heard back from R&D, even though Sid PROMISED to get back to me. [Sid: The masses are hungry. Just ask ole Jimmer—who’s now cussin to spin the dead and jerkin up the back of his sinking jeans because he has to stand there and push the arrow on the box 450 times to get to the NFL network—about his thoughts on the matter.] Whatever. Regardless of whether or not they go with my idea, I still think it’s a great one. Needless to say, I don’t have Comcast anymore. I sure showed them.

Anyway, when you dream up and run with a concept that you assume will be astounding, only to find it stopping midstream or not reaching the climax in a powerful way—shut up and be mature :)—here are some things you can do to try to infuse it with life before chucking it into file 13.

Reassess all the goals of every character. All the main characters need goals. Change them up and bend them so your characters have opposing goals, which will create conflict. Conflict is cool. You want that.

Consider working in a subplot and or other genre threads to weave around your main plot. Could you add more suspense, a struggle at work, family drama, a personal issue like insomnia, a love interest, opposition from townies, a paper boy who wants his two dollars?

Perhaps your characters are the sultans of sabotage by being too dull or weak. Go back to your sketches and beef up each one, even for your minor characters, and even if most of those details never grace your pages. Jot down goals, both minor and major, worldviews, upbringing, dreams, demons, attitudes, personalities, quirks, habits, tastes, etc. Adding rounder characters will bring some vitality to your story.

Have scenes that show more and tell less. If you're explaining too much, it's creating drag, so no wonder your story is now stuck in mud.

Strive to make your big idea bigger.

Up the stakes. [That's not only for vampire slayers.]

Do some research on your story concepts. You may get the inspiration you need to take your story in a new direction.

Start over.

Let your character take a wrong turn or have a set back.

On the flip side, look for a character mistake that may have brought your story to a screeching halt. If Kellie was abused for years and years, finds courage and leaves, but later decides to go back to her maniac husband, she'll lose all sympathy with readers. Don’t let your MC wallow in self-pity or sit around doing nothing. No one likes a loser or an inactive blob. Readers want to root for someone. They like characters who try, and keep trying.

Consider adding a new character. Maybe your MC needs a bad influence, a sarcastic best friend, a cheerleader, a Debbie Downer co-worker or a dragon lady boss.

Brainstorm some more set pieces, the important events, moments of discovery or big changes that take place before the climax.

Write the ending then go back to where your story fizzled. Yep. After writing the first two chapters of my book, Kings & Queens, I wrote the last 2. I knew my final outcome exactly, and with a book as twisty and crazy as mine, I wanted to firmly mark that as my endzone to make sure everything headed towards it. Plus, I also wanted to pen it when my inspiration was most vivid. I ended up changing chapter 1 a great deal, but the end chapters remained basically the same, with minor tweaking and polishing.

Examine your story question, which is your throughline, taking readers from A to Z. Did you provide a good question at the onset but then provide the answer in chapter 13 when you have ten more chapters left? Your story should have a main story question that isn’t fully answered until the climax, or even the last sentence. Keep readers turning pages to find out the answer to that burning question.

Perhaps your big idea is as useless and junkyard-ready as my broken TVs, but before giving up, at least see if its worthy of repair. With some reassessment and elbow grease, you could turn trash into treasure. Give it a try and see.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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