I’ve reached the less fun part of story development, when I have to figure out what actually happens. It’s fun to create/discover characters and their world and to do research, but then comes the time when I actually need a plot. I would be perfectly happy just writing these people going about their daily lives in this setting, and while I know there are some readers who’d be okay with that, too, there’s no chance of it selling. I am contemplating a self-published experiment in “low-conflict fiction” for people who are so stressed-out that they just want to escape and read stories about people having adventures, seeing new things, discovering stuff, and maybe helping other people without being in mortal danger or without being put through the emotional wringer. However, this is not that book. I would like to sell this book to a publisher, so something plot-like needs to happen. I’ve got all the setup figured out — the ordinary world, call to adventure, crossing the threshold, tests, enemies and allies. But I’ve hit the part where things get serious, heading into the inmost cave for an ordeal, and I have no idea what needs to happen next now that the plot is really kicking in.
I’ve done things backwards in that I’ve figured out all the character conflicts, both within the characters and between the characters, and I know the arc the heroine needs to be on. I just can’t seem to figure out what the external plot should be that will drive that arc and force the heroine to make those choices. I have a vague sense of one possibility, but it may be too big for this book because this story has series potential and the plot I have in mind is more of a series climax thing. There’s not really anywhere to go after that story. So I need something that’s the right level of conflict, something that affects the heroine’s immediate world but doesn’t alter their society (the big one I have in mind is society-altering). At the same time, I don’t really want to present this as book one in a trilogy, but rather a standalone story with series potential, so it needs to be big enough to fix an obvious wrong in the first book so that it feels like the heroine has accomplished something.
Actually, I guess it depends on who you talk to whether I’ve really done things backwards. There are those who say you need to figure out what your protagonist needs to learn and then fit that into an external plot, but I tend to come up with the external plot and then figure out how it affects my characters, doing some tweaking to make it fit. Usually, for my easiest books, it all just sort of clicks together.
I think today is going to be a brainstorming day, which means it’s going to be a big housework day. Staring at a screen/page, trying to think of a plot, tends to get me nowhere. The best ideas come when I’m doing something else. We’re having our first sunny day after days of rain, and a house that felt cozy on a dark, rainy day just looks cluttered in bright sunlight. So I’m going to put iTunes on shuffle (because sometimes music sparks ideas) and clean my house, and maybe the answer will come to me while I’m dusting.