Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Steering out of a ditch...call in the troops...

I've mentioned some of the benefits of joining a face-to-face critique group here.

One benefit I recently enjoyed is getting help with a "stuck middle."

What do you do when you reach a fork in the road for your character?

I'm a meticulous plotter, yet when I begin writing the characters take over and move the story in their own direction. The imaginary tyrant takes the wheel! She likes to take the back roads. Sometimes she even likes to drive through a local farmers field after a rainstorm. Then "Miss Tyrant" wants ME to pull her out!  Suddenly I can be of service to her.

Or the car sits idly by the side of the road after one of the infamous abominable snowstorms in the homestate of "she who must be obeyed." This time I had to call in the forces.

My critique group.

Shamelessly grovel.  Call on their amazing word power and plot prowess to help you tow out "Miss Tyrant."

Here are some questions that helped get me through one of my stuck points:

1) What are my characters' options at this point? My critique group shared some options which led me to think of even more options.

2) Where will each option take her?

3) How will each option affect the resolution of my story?

4) Which option does my character have the most motivation to take, given what I know of her as a character?

5) What new obstacle can I put in her way to increase the tension?

After a session of brainstorming I found myself filled with new ideas and seeing my story in a whole new light.

Fortunately, my friends carved ruts in the ditch on their way in and through the grooves I can get back to the main road...or maybe I'll carve my own ruts and head in a new direction, but I'd better hurry up before Miss Tyrant takes the wheel again.


Keli Gwyn said...

Julia, I'm glad your CPs helped you get your story back on track. Mine did the same for me after I'd rewritten my story and unwittingly ended up with a sagging muddle. Good CPs are worth their weight in chocolate. =)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Julia! I'm slowly working my way toward that middle portion of my wip. I love the questions you asked yourself. I'm holding onto this post. :O)

Beth K. Vogt said...

There's nothing like brainstorming with other writers. Sometimes that's all I accomplish with my crit partners--and that's the best thing I accomplish!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks, Julia.
You wrote this post is such a fun and inviting way.
I heartily agree that crit partners are worth their weight in gold..and much more:)

Sarah Forgrave said...

I love a good brainstorming session! Great post about how valuable crit partners can be, Julia.

Angie Dicken said...

Crit partners are so awesome! My characters gain so much after a good session of slashing and critiquing!

Julia M. Reffner said...

KELI, I agree and I can't wait to read your novel to "see" all the good "crit" action at work.

JEANNE, I hope they will be helpful later.

BETH, I so agree. This was as helpful as any "indepth" five page critique I've received.

Julia M. Reffner said...

MARY, I wasn't sure if I was on the right track so thanks :)

SARAH, I think I've only done brainstorming with a single person on my own MS so getting a group was quite helpful.

ANG, Yes, isn't the slashing so key?? And it is a harsh cut sometimes but almost always I'm glad to have made it.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Good post, Julia. I bet CP's are such a help in the brainstorming area. You are lucky to have some to help in that way.

Julia M. Reffner said...

SHERRINDA, I feel blessed to have them and also to have my online friends at the Writer's Alley :)