I’ve admitted it before: I’m a plotter. I can’t begin writing a story without knowing all the major pieces, especially the ending. In fact, knowing the ending helps me create the right character to play the part of hero.
But today I ran into a problem, and I’m fairly certain it has more to do with my linear thought process and elaborate plot than anything else. I got so excited about the ending, so in a hurry to get to that fabulous climatic scene, that I resolved too many issues too quickly. Now I’m sitting at 60,000 words and the climatic sequence has begun.
It’s too soon. I didn’t let the tension stew long enough, didn’t let the hero suffer long enough in the trials and tribulations of Part 3 (The Attack), before moving into Part 4 (The Resolution).
So how do I fix it? I’ve got to back up and prolong the tension. I’ve got to let the hero suffer some more and delay his deliverance before he goes after the bad guy. There are plenty of ways to prolong suspense and tension in a story. I could…
1. Insert a ticking clock: something bad will happen by this time, and my hero is in a race against that clock.
2 Increase the stakes: now it’s not just the hero who’s in danger, but so is his lover, or partner, or best friend, or pet iguana.
3. Insert an inability to take action: my hero knows what has to happen but is physically or psychologically incapable of doing what needs to be done.
4. Insert a new mystery: the hero knows what must happen, and knows he is capable of doing so, but then new information comes to him that negates all that positive “I can do it” stuff.
Is this problem unique to me, or have you ever run into this sort of difficulty while working on your first draft? I doubt I’m alone. Share your horror story in the comments section and tell me how you fixed it.