I've written myself into a corner.

by Jamie

Question: I think I've written myself into a corner.

I was working on a story where a woman has an affair with a mechanic while being engaged to her rich high-school sweet heart. So the woman decides to break it off with the mechanic because she really does love her fiancé but the man loves her and he tries really heard to convince her that they should be together but she wants them to be friends because she doesn't want to lose him. He doesn't want to be her friend and they fight but neither can stay away from each other so they keep coming back then it gets to be to much and the man tells her that if he can't have all of her then he wants none of her and the woman cries then the man gets killed.

Once he's dead the woman realizes how much she loves him so she breaks off her engagement and moves back in with her father. Then she starts to get really depressed and stops leaving the house but her father tries to force her to move on. She decides to leave the house but has a run in with a man who looks a lot like her dead guy but he's not. the guy gives her a ride home and the woman becomes even more depressed and then nothing...

The mechanic is Dead, her fiancé's gone, she's grieving...now what?

I originally planned to have it all be a dream and have her wake up the day before the other man dies but now I don't think that's a good idea.

I mean even if I gave her a do-over, that would probably destroy all the growth that I plan to give her. once she's moved on from his death then to give her a do-over would just ruin it. So the mechanic's dead for good.

Then I thought maybe she could be pregnant but I decided early on that her relationship with the mechanic was an emotional affair not a physical one. sure there was kissing but there was something more to there relationship than sex. So no pregnancy.
then I thought of having her move on with the lookalike but that's no good because then would she really be moving on or is she living in the past with this guy and even if she did move on with him wouldn't the shadow of her old love be hanging over her relationship with her new one?

So that's out.

Now I'm stuck.

I don't want to scrap the story because I've already written so much of it but I'm out of plans.
no ending seems good enough.

What should I do?

Answer: Yours is the type of problem "pantsers" typically encounter.

(Pantser = a writer who writes by the seat of his/her pants with little forethought or planning.)

I would suggest you ask yourself what story you want to tell. Think of a story as one big change in someone's life. What is the change you envision for your character?

For instance, a well-structured story revolves around a story problem. The problem consists of two parts, Goal and Consequence. The Goal is what the protagonist is trying to achieve. The Consequence is the misfortune that will occur if the Goal is not achieved.

(See this article for the other basic plot elements... http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline.html)

For instance, you might decide that the Goal is for your heroine to overcome the memory of her dead lover, to create a better future for herself, to know what she really wants, or to become a stronger person. The consequence might be that her own life will suffer if she remains depressed and agoraphobic.

(It may also make sense to construct a world of people around her who are struggling with the same problem in their own lives.)

Once you know the goal, you can decide if you want your heroine to achieve that goal. Should she end up a bitter failure, or should she reach a point where she is happier, more content, better off, etc.?

Your crisis will be the moment where she runs out of options and must make a choice that will determine whether the goal is achieved or not. If you want a happy ending, the crisis is the point where everything looks bleak, but she takes charge of the situation and eventually triumphs. If you want a tragedy, the crisis will be the point where everything looks great, but she makes a fatal error.

So your external plot will follow the pattern of...

Setup --> Complications --> Move to Crisis --> Move to Resolution

At the same time, your main character will wrestle with an inner conflict. Should she stay with her basic approach to life/problems, or should she change and adopt a different approach? Your impact character will be the character that represents the different approach (maybe this is the lookalike?).

Her personal crisis will be the moment when she decides once and for all whether to change. And this decision will determine whether she is able to achieve the Goal. So her inner arc looks like...

Initial approach --> Growth (pressure to change) --> Resolve (decision to change or not) --> Judgement (Is she better off in the end?)

This arc unfolds in parallel with the external plot.

Once you know the story you are trying to tell, you can take all the material you have written so far and revise it. New sections may need to be written to fill in holes. Some sections may need to be cut. Other sections may need to be rewritten.

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