Go With The Flow (or “What Happens When Your Plot Turns to Mush”)

You have an outline, be it skeletal or excruciatingly detailed. You have characters, which have taken you hours upon days to name and flesh out until they are truly a person. Finally, you sit down to write. The first couple dozen pages go smoothly, the plot is going exactly where you want it to and your characters are remaining true to form.

Then, it happens.

Option A: A new twist in the plotline presents itself and won’t go away. You want to change it, but when you do it sounds forced. (Most people leave it there anyway).

Option B: Your character offers some surprising new information that was NOT in the original plan! Who is this new person they’re talking about? And why are they suddenly scared of every shadow? No, this is not what we talked about, character!

From this point on, it seems your outline is virtually useless. Since that one scene changed, the whole story has taken a different direction. No! This is not good! Go back! You try to bring it back onto the original railroad tracks, pushing and pulling the whole way.

This is not how writing should feel. Even though it is work to push through writer’s block at certain points of the story, the plotline should flow naturally. You should be having fun! So, how do you have fun when your plotline is no longer your plotline? That’s easy!

Go with the flow.

If your plotline is changing before your eyes, or your character has so nicely provided information you did not know when you began, go with it! Follow the flow of the story. It will naturally pull you along to the climax and resolution.

I know this is really tough for those who have planned this story from start to finish and want it to be exactly the way you put it down on paper. So, I pose a question. Would you rather have it your way and have it sound forced and stiff, or follow the story where it goes and have everyone love it?

Yes, it’s YOUR baby. And yes, if you so choose you can pull it the direction you want it to go. But stories don’t always work like that. Sometimes they’re mischievous and are trying to tell you what would make it ten times better! Point in case, you should listen to your story and take heed what it is telling you. Should that bad guy really be a good guy in the end? What about that character they briefly mentioned earlier? Should they play a bigger role?

On the other hand, there are those stories that have NO plotline. (Or, as I like to call it, “the mush plotline”.) You started it and then never got around to finishing it, and YIKES! does it need help. You have bits and pieces but nothing seems to fit together, and how in the world did they get onto a boat? Wanna know what you do about those? Yep, you guessed it.

Go with the flow.

It never fails, if you start writing somewhere along the line an idea will spark. Those land lovers will suddenly decide to take a cruise and HEY! There’s your boat! Scenes have a way of attaching themselves and explaining themselves if you listen long enough. So listen up, bub.

No matter if you’re having trouble thinking up plotline or have one that’s completely changed now, going with the flow is always better than forcing your story to be something it is not. When you force, it often comes off shallow and stiff. No one wants that. So loosen up and have fun!

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This week, I’d like to hear about a time when your plotline changed without warning you. What did you do?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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2 thoughts on “Go With The Flow (or “What Happens When Your Plot Turns to Mush”)

  1. I totally agree! GO WITH THE FLOW! Although, tbh, I actually haven’t had it happen wildly to me. I’m a sort-of-planner. Usually I have an outline, but soooometimes I wing it. Either way, I get crazy plot movements I did NOT see coming, but I’ve never had to truly abandon an outline yet, so I guess I’m lucky. x)
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    Like

  2. An outline? Not I. I think I tried once to make a plan, but as I filled out the details, I got bored and moved to something else. As Cait said, I wing it. Sit at the keyboard and sometimes hold on for dear life as the words spill faster than I can type. (Which isn’t that hard, since I’m not exactly the world’s best typist.)

    Like

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