There are always going to be times when an artist, in any genre, is going to run into a few problem elements in writing their story. It happens. There’s no reason to panic, and certainly no reason for you to give up on your project. It’s a normal part of the process. Sometimes you have ideas that seem so exciting and engaging at the time while you’re planning things out...and then, once you start writing, you realize that those ideas aren’t as supportive of your story as you initially imagined. It’s totally normal. The question is..how do we deal with it now those elements have been woven into the very fabric of the story that you’re trying to tell? I mean, it’s there now. It can’t just be made disappear, can it?
This is something that I’ve struggled with since I began writing my own stuff online, and there are ways to sort of fix things to get your story back on track without having these unwanted parts of your narrative appear as a glaring example of a major mistake that you just want the readers to forget about. Hehehe, but it’s not always that simple. Especially if it’s a part of your story that has been lingering around for an extended period of time. That can be the worst! ::Giggles::
As with almost everything else that requires time, effort, and an emotionally draining amount of creative energy...you’re going to have to leave a lot of this up to whatever natural instincts you’ve developed over time to find your comfort zone and work with it in your own special way, but it won’t take much practice to know what you’re looking for and recognize the way it feels to have your current plot slightly lose focus or derail itself as you dive deeper into parts of your story that you’re not really enjoying as much as some of the others. The key is to be aware of what you’re doing, check it against your original game plan, and catch these mismatched mistakes as quickly as possible so you can massage that particular ‘cramp’ out of your story before it becomes too much of a problem for you to deal with in a graceful way.
After all, you can’t have every character that you don’t like in your story suddenly get mauled by an escaped tiger from the zoo, or abducted by cannibalistic alien hordes, every time you want to get them booted out of the plot. Hehehe! Well...you’re the creator, so I guess that, technically, you can! But it’ll look weird. So let’s look into some other options.
The first order of business is to look at what your overall goal was for the story. What are you trying to say? What are the most important parts of bringing that message and those emotions to your project? And which characters do you really need to support this strategy of yours? What are the most essential parts of the plot, and which characters embody those parts in purpose and personality? If you have a character or a plot device that simply isn’t working out for your narrative, ask yourself if you could lose them completely without fundamentally changing the story as a whole. You’re going to have to be brutally honest with yourself here, and have a serious ‘kill your darlings’ moment, in order to gain clarity and remove the problematic parts of your writing that are holding you back. Again, this is something that I’ve had to do many times myself in the past, and it never gets any easier. But sometimes you’ve just got to cut some of those ideas loose and keep them from staining the rest of the story.
Whether it’s slowing things down, confusing or complicating the plot, is emotionally out of tone with everything else going on, or if it’s just not a fan favorite in terms of what connects them to the story and the characters within...you need a keen eye, and detach yourself from your work long enough to see when you’ve got a proverbial splinter in your paw, holding you back. Easier said than done, I know. But if you’re going to be putting your best foot forward, then this is what needs to be accomplished. Maybe these ideas would be better suited for a future story further down the road. Who knows? For now, though? Find clever ways to write them out of your story. Lose them. Boring your audience, even briefly...can get them to turn away from your story before you ever get a chance to get to the good stuff. Obviously, you don’t want that. So much of your hard work won’t ever be seen if you lose them early on. Keep a balance that lasts from beginning to end. It helps.
Now, me personally? I love posting my chapters online for everyone to read as I finish writing, editing, re-editing, and polishing up, for everyone to see. I get feedback on each chapter, and I always read and absorb reader feedback and comments as they come in. And sometimes I make mistakes or have inconsistencies that I can go back and improve, further explain, or correct, right away as they come up. But if I have parts of a story that really aren’t working for a majority of readers, I’ll look deeper into what’s going on with that, and see if maybe those elements need to be improved, or erased entirely.
Maybe I’ll agree, maybe I’ll disagree...but I’ll have a different perspective to use and build off of that I can use to my advantage when it comes to figuring out whether or not this part of the story is working or not. And if I’m truly connected to that specific plot point, and decide to fix and structure and steer it back on course to make it a more enjoyable part of my story, then awesome. But if it turns out that it just isn’t working out and I can’t ‘force’ it to behave and fit in somewhere it doesn’t belong...then the next step is trying to find a way to effectively drop the cumbersome baggage holding it back.
Again, it’s already a visible part of your story now, and readers are paying attention whether they love it or hate it. So how do we do that? Well...let’s talk about it!
If identifying the problem was the first part of the process...then the second part is identifying why that particular part of your story is a problem. What is it doing that you or your readers don’t like? Maybe you have a deeply dramatic story that needs sympathy and a deep affection for your protagonist...but you also have a close friend that you wrote in who might act as a bit of comic relief to keep things from getting too dark and depressing. Well, that can be a difficult balancing act in your writing. The tones are in direct opposition of one another. If you feel like you’re enough of an expert to both characters somehow, then you’re more than welcome to try. But if it’s causing problems in your writing, that best friend might have to go. Or at least not be around whenever something serious is happening...which is pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?
I’m not saying that you should have him suddenly get struck by lightning or anything, but if he’s not working within the context of the rest of the story, then maybe you need to ask yourselves the appropriate questions. Why is he here? What impact does he have on the story? And why has his presence suddenly become so uncomfortable. If you cant immediately answer those questions with total confidence...there might be a problem there.
Imagine that you were taking a fishing boat out to the middle of a deep lake for a nice catch, and you need an anchor to hold your boat still. Think of this character, or a particular scene or event in your story, and think of them that way. If the anchor is too big and too heavy...you end up sinking the entire boat and ruining your day. If it’s too small and too light...it’s not enough to hold your boat still, and you end up floating away, set adrift with no direction or purpose. Your scenes and characters and the plot lines they affect are no different. Are they going to drag you down, or are they too ineffectual to allow you to maintain your focus?
Since I write about gay (and often closeted) teen characters...I’m always asking myself how big of an anchor each one of my main characters are. Should I add them? Should I not? How much is their presence going to weigh in the rest of my story. If you’ve read a bunch of my past stories, you’ll notice that there are a bunch of times that their parents are barely mentioned at all, outside of the fact that they exist. I mean, of course they do! They’re not living in that big house all by themselves. They all go to high school and have teachers and homework. It’s safe to say that they have friends lurking around somewhere. Or at least people to talk to once in a while outside of the main love interest. But...the question is, do they need be detailed and interacted with in ways that might interfere with the point of the story? It depends on how heavy I want that anchor in my fishing boat to be.
Now, in stories like ”New Kid In School” or the ”Secret Life Of Billy Chase” Ebooks...the parents are much more evident. They don’t play a huge role in the story, but they’re much more present than the parents in a lot of my other stories, and I need them there to create a three dimensional vision of what I want to say with those stories. However, in stuff like ”A Class By Himself” or ”My Only Escape”, the parents are just as important to the main plot as the main character and his love interest. They can’t just be in the background or invisible in order for me to tell my story...they need to be a feature.
Why is this? Because I’ve taken a long long time to sort of learn an effective balance between characters where I don’t run into the same problems that I’ve had in the past. Like...remember when Billy Chase a girlfriend for a short while? Remember Randy’s abusive father from “New Kid”? Hehehe, no? That’s because I wrote them out of the story. I was trying something out, and decided to go in a different direction after they were already a part of the story’s canon. Now, I didn’t suddenly have them ‘vanish’ without reason...that would have been jolting to my audience, and that would make my mistakes all that much more evident in the long run. So I still maintain the idea that, like, “Yeah...that happened.” But, as I said above...once you put something in your story for everybody to see, whether you like it or not...you can’t just take it back and fix it in post. Hehehe, not without a bit of backlash.
Writing elements out of your story, I believe, is simply an art of gradually shifting focus from the things that you want to get rid of, and shining a brighter spotlight on the things that will turn your story around and get it back to what you wanted it to be. Not right away! Take a few chapters, have those unwanted elements appear less and less in the plot, and then shift over to concentrating on something that is more beneficial to driving the story forward. If your writing focuses on that, more times than not, your readers will have no choice but to do the same. Especially if they’re having fun.
Now..there are times when this practice can kind of bury any past mistakes or poorly working plot lines completely, and you can move forward without looking back. But I often try to keep them in mind, just in case I need to remember that they happened once, and try to figure out if I need to give that particular character or storyline some closure so I’m not left with loose ends. Sometimes it can even work to my benefit, if I’m lucky. Bringing back an old character that people had forgotten about, or a single problem that was never resolved properly.
The best example of this is in ”New Kid In School” though, as it was my very first story, and I’m still writing it to this day. So there have been a lot of retcons and reboots and inconsistencies littered throughout that entire series that I’m STILL trying to find and bang out so I can release it as an ebook series someday! But that will take a long long time! Hahaha! Trust me!
Basically...if you have something in your story that you feel isn’t working...lose it. It’s ok. Losing a few ideas is like losing a few drops of blood. Your heart will make more. If you can fix it, or somehow find a clever way to push those elements into the background until your readers forget about them? It’s a cheat...but do it. Don’t allow your entire project to suffer for it as a whole. Let it fade away and try to create a stronger narrative moving forward. Cool?
It’s all about finding your ‘balance’! What moments are important? What characters are important? Sometimes you need a teacher or a coach to take on a highlighted role. Sometimes you need a parent, guardian, or co-worker, to do the same. Maybe you have a kid that writes all of his thoughts down in a private diary, or talks to his pet hamster. Just remember that everything comes with a certain weight to it in your writing. Too little sets you adrift, too much sinks the boat. Keep that in mind, and you’ll do just fine.
Learn from my many MANY mistakes, people! Hehehe! And then go out there and do it better than I did!
I hope this helps! And I’ll seezya soon with more! K? Happy writing!