Have you ever gotten stuck in the middle of your novel and don’t know what happens next? Or worse, you know exactly where the middle is supposed to lead, but it’s too boring to write it down? Or maybe you’re cruising along and you realize that things are just too easy for your protagonist, but you don’t know how to fix that problem.
The solution: Destroy Something.
(This destructive force courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
Destroy a relationship. Pick someone your hero is close to, then ruin that relationship somehow: a miscommunication, a divergent set of life goals, a disagreement over a core value, or an injustice perpetrated by someone else that, if discovered, would mend the relationship instead of destroy it. The closer the relationship, the better. Best friends are awesome, but having a spouse walk away is much more devastating.
Destroy a core value. Maybe your hero begins the novel believing that good always triumphs, but suddenly comes face-to-face with proof that sometimes the bad guys win. My mom always told me “life isn’t fair,” but I didn’t want to believe it because my sense of justice and fair-play are so finely tuned (read: totally out of whack). It shakes up a person something good when they realize that what they thought was Truth is not true.
Destroy a special place. Tornado, fire, flood, pick your Act of God and knock out the family home, the retirement community where Grandma lives, or the gravesite of a lost love. Your hero will need to work through the grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), and while working through that process is healthy, it can also through a major wrench into the time-sensitive catastrophe known as the Main Plot Line.
Destroy hope. Your hero is working to Get What He Wants. Then, like in The Empire Strikes Back, everything goes wrong and all hope is lost. Now your hero can’t see how he could possible achieve is goal and Get What He Wants. This is part of Making Things Worse, but if you’re stuck, it’s a great place to start getting un-stuck.
Destroy a life. This is a variation on Destroy a Relationship, but it’s much more permanent. The death of someone close to the hero will definitely shake up his world and alter his course. I know it’s a bummer to say goodbye to a beloved character, but sometimes you have to. Give it a shot and see what happens.
Can you think of anything else to destroy? Share with us all in the comments section.