Writers: Break in Case of Emergency

It has come to that time of NaNo when plots are out of steam, grand plans for a 400-page novel has turned into a 100 page novella, and you can’t even focus enough to write your name on a blank piece of paper.

My NaNo group plans for this eventuality. At one of the early meetings, everyone writes down a plot-changing situation. That is put into an envelope and everyone gets one envelope (hopefully not their own!) to take home. When the going gets tough, you’re allowed to break into the envelope and employ the plot ninja.

Plot Ninjas

Here are some plot ninjas. If you’re stuck, try them–even if they don’t currently fit into your plot at all. You never know how they might work their way into your story. (And even if you end up cutting them out, they could be the jump start you need. At the very least they’ll help your word count goals.)

Your main character, in a fit of craziness, drunkenness, emotional frailty, etc. kisses someone completely unexpected. The kissee is not their current partner. If they have a mad crush on someone and are trying to hook up with him/her, the kissee is NOT that person. It has to be unexpected. Note: your MC must be the one doing the kissing because this sets up internal conflict, whereas if they are the recipient of a drunken smooch, it can be too quickly dismissed.

Kill one of your secondary characters who is close to your MC. Personally, I have a reputation for killing characters–even ones that I build up well with back story and put on a clear path to romance. That’s because real life works that way. Also, I want to keep my reader guessing: will my MC even make it out the series alive? This creates suspense and keeps people emotionally invested and reading. (J. K. Rowling did this.)

Your MC has a sudden medical emergency. This can be from an accident or from a previously-undiagnosed health problem. It may or may not result in a permanent disability (although a permanent disability makes for a more interesting character), but it does need to involve a lengthy process–perhaps by being in the hospital for a while or having to take treatments or physical therapy afterwards. It could involve: a fall from a horse, a wound from a fight or attack, cancer, MS or MD, sudden blindness or deafness, paralyzation, a career-killing injury, a stroke, a fall from a building or bridge, a car accident, etc.

Your MC is laid off/fired from his/her job unexpectedly. If your MC is a kid, a parent suffers a sudden job loss that necessitates moving to a new school district. Or s/he gets expelled (given that some schools are expelling kids for having cold medicine at school, even a good kid can wind up on the wrong side of draconian policies).

Your MC gets religion. Preferably one they weren’t raised on and preferably one that requires a big change of lifestyle. (Orthodox Judaism or Mormonism anyone?) Your MC may or may not stick to it.

Additional Resources

Dragon Writing Prompts – typically small, random items to put into your story (which you then have to explain). For when you need a small nudge to your plot, not a major course correction.



One comment on “Writers: Break in Case of Emergency

  1. More good stuff for me to print out and keep at my desk. Thanks, Keri!

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