Writer’s dilemmas are a part of writing. They occur with every well-thought out novel. If you don’t find yourself boxed in somehow, then you probably have not written a plot complex enough to grab the reader and hold her attention.
Plots should resemble life in its complexities. They need twists and turns, unexpected outcomes, surprises, and falls from cliffs with protagonists clinging by fingertips to the edge or grabbing tree roots during the fall. Plots must draw emotion from the reader and make her care.
Life doesn’t start at point A and end at point B. Life twists through the entire alphabet with ups and downs, side roads, u-turns, detours, and snaking curves. If life did, somehow, begin and end with points A and B, it wouldn’t be worth writing about and we’d spend our days lying in coffins waiting to die from sheer boredom. I’ve read coffin books that made me want to travel through the space-time continuum and beat the writer over the head with War and Peace before he can begin writing his deathpiece.
I reached my latest writer’s dilemma this week.
My novel opens with the MC, Tom, proposing to his girlfriend, Aida. In the moments leading to the proposal, he compares her to Susanna, his fiancée who died before they could marry. He questions his love and whether he is doing the right thing. This sets the tone for the story.
Later, Tom meets and falls in love with another woman, Sasi, and tells her “You hold the half of my heart I buried with Susanna.” He has at last found the woman he was destined to love.
Tom’s crisis of conscience is how to approach his engagement to Aida. Does he do the “right thing” and marry her knowing she doesn’t have his complete love? Or does he tell her that he has found his true love and she isn’t the one? Maybe he only tells her he has had a change of heart.
My writer’s dilemma is threefold:
- How to write the scene with Sasi so it doesn’t sound insipid or schmaltzy;
- How to tell Sasi about Aida;
- How to break off the engagement to Aida so it feels realistic.
I’ve drafted 1 & 3.
Number one gave me difficulty for the reasons above.
I think I have the answer for number two and a way to write it that says “yeah, could happen like that.”
Number three gave me less trouble than I expected. I don’t want the reader to groan, roll her eyes, and laugh at how stupid or unrealistic the scenario. I found a way to write it with a twist that I hope the reader appreciates. I almost killed off Aida, but I didn’t want to take the easy way out.
I also don’t want Aida to gouge out Tom’s eyeballs or cut off his happiness. Must there be anger, tears, and hurt? Maybe. Maybe not.
We’ll see, because, as you know, where there’s a Will (heehee) there’s a way 🙂