Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday's Inspiration - Problems in Novels

"Problems in novels, unlike problems in algebra, have more than one solution." John Gardner from On Becoming A Novelist.

When I first read this my forehead wrinkled in thought. Then something hit me. This statement was so true. I started to look at one problem and started to look at possible solutions. Some were good, some so so and some didn't fit. What they didn't fit was the character as I imagined the character to be. I thought of a problem that could be the foundation for a novel. Mary discovers John has been cheating on her. Happens a lot. Now what were some possible solutions.

Mary can walk away from John and never see him again.
Mary can make his life miserable.
Mary can act against the other woman.
Mary can act against John.

There are probably more solutions to this problem or twists to the solutions I've imagined. The trick is to examine the characters and to see what action in solving the problem works for that character. There is a potential for many stories but only one that will work for the characters.

If Mary chooses the first solution, this could lead her in a different direction in life and to a totally new story. Choosing the second of the solution could be a really dark story and Mary could end up being eliminated. Selecting the third possibility could be s strong story. The fourth can be an interesting story. Or the solution to Mary's problem could be something totally different.

So when plotting your story, think of the possible solutions to the main problem and also look at how the minor problems have been solved and give it a twist if you can find one.


Unknown said...

Janet, thanks for sharing!

Melissa Keir said...

Very true... and no matter what we choose to do, there are repercussions.

Calisa Rhose said...

Great way to break it down and so many directions a story could go depending on who the characters really are.