Earlier this year, one of my favorite places on the internet, TWOP (TelevisionWithoutPity) was shut down. Thousands of pages of forum posts that meticulously snarked and broke down hundreds of television series were suddenly gone from the internet. I
don’t want to admit can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent after watching a series, then reading and responding in discussion about things I loved and things I didn’t.
I was crushed. I’d learned so much reading those threads, and would miss it every time I discovered a new-loved series.
One of the most interesting things I took from my years on that board(mostly reading and lurking) was how many different ideas people had about how a story could go.
As a writer myself, I’m often seeing how true that is, and how even the tiniest decisions are tied to a thread that weaves through a carefully interwoven plot.
One huge plot point in the current story I’m writing has haunted me in this way. In my first outlines, I had two characters come together. I planned out how it would affect them emotionally, but after comments from a friend, I realized how I hadn’t explored in-depth how it would affect their relationships with the people around them. All of a sudden, I realized that some of the those changes would permanently shift the relationships of multiple characters in my story in a way I wasn’t sure I wanted.
It felt uncomfortable to me, and while it could have been interesting, I realized that it would have put a dark cloud over the entire rest of the series. I already have a fairly complex and dark story, and didn’t want it to become so depressing there was no lightness or hope in the read. So, I did what any author does, and adjusted the story to scale back the scene. And then, like the insanity that writing brings, I kept re-adjusting, and then re-adjusting again. With each of those tweaks, I pulled a different string that had links in different parts of the story.
During this and a few other changes, I realized that the thread pulling wasn’t linear, and my woven piece was more like an intricate knot. If I pulled, other things tightened around the piece and shifted everything else. So those adjustments needed to be thoughtful, and I always had a fallout to the decision.
In trying to come to any decision about my story, I’m noticing a trend where I feel frozen and unable to move forward. My most recent bout of this is actually not about the above mentioned plot conundrum, but was about a simpler one, that still weighed heavy on me. My solution is to usually do what others call procrastinating, but I like to call stepping away to gain perspective. So, I Netflix and Prime any free-time away and then catch up on the gossip on message boards. Doesn’t that sound productive?
Anyway, while re-watching one of my favorite shows(Veronica Mars in case you’re interested), I stumbled across another snarky but deeply thoughtful message board with a thread about the show. I
wasted explored some time there, and was engrossed in reading their early theories of what direction the show could/should/would go in. There were so many different, yet interesting ideas that I again was instantly fascinated with the fallout that each suggestion created. Out of every five or so theories that were thrown around, at least three usually seemed enjoyable and even plausible.
I was slapped in the face with the notion that there wasn’t a ‘right’ way to tell the story. Just equally different ways. That could easily apply to my own writing as well. My constant fear of course is then making a decision that leads me into a corner, or into a place that’s not relatable to many. That’s part of the adventure in the process though I guess, and one I should embrace because it’s what makes each story unique.
I’m still unsure exactly how far I’ll take the characters at that point in the book. I like the messiness of it, the realness of something coming together that probably shouldn’t but does because the stakes are high. Playing and bouncing it around in my brain will get me to the final decision. And whatever place I decide to go, it will be the direction that feels most intuitive for me in a sea of many I could take. There’s something so lovely about that, and it’s probably what draws me to writing in the first place. It’s like life. There’s no right answer, just a world full of options that lead us to interesting twists we have to figure out.