Thoughts on Writing – Fixing a Derailed Plot

While working on the third book of The Wishing Blade series (I’m writing the rough draft for Camp NaNoWriMo) I ran into a snag. I knew how the book should end, but I wasn’t sure how to get it there.

Without getting into too many spoilers (since the second book isn’t even out yet!) I can say that the three main characters have been split into two groups (not by choice). Toranih’s off dealing with the shadows directly, while Daernan and Siklana are trying to get to Soralsyn (a place where magic doesn’t like to play nice). They’re following Nihestan, a mage they don’t really trust, in hopes of getting glass-stone, a precious material that might help them defeat the shadows. But Nihestan decides they need training first–whether they want it or not.

Now, this whole training thing was running too long. Siklana was attempting to learn word magic and getting nowhere because Nihestan doesn’t trust her, and he is actively trying to slow her progress. Then Kirse’Ve, an immortal companion tagging along with them (who isn’t quite as blind-sided as Nihestan), decides to take Siklana to Soralsyn on his own, in hopes of clarifying some of his own suspicions.

In the meantime, Daernan is stuck learning how to use magic’s lure from an uppity god of wine and merriment. Since the god decides that the best way to make someone who doesn’t want to use magic’s lure is to use magic and force him to practice, the concept was starting to run too similar to another story line I’m working on. That… and the god of wine and merriment was starting to feel just a little too similar to the trickster god.

With those arcs in place, the plot was getting nowhere.

I discussed the problems with my husband, Isaac, who pointed out two things that helped me make the necessary changes.

  1. Don’t have Kirse’Ve take Siklana to Soralsyn so early in the plot. Since it’s supposed to be difficult to get to Soralsyn, having him fly there on a whim cheapens the danger. (Plus, having him refuse to take her earlier, on the grounds they aren’t prepared, raises the tension as she tries to convince them to go).
  2. Make it clear that Nihestan doesn’t plan on reuniting Daernan and Siklana with Toranih (quite the opposite, he thinks she’s the enemy and needs to die). This raises further tension between the characters.

Both concepts were important as I tried to run through a mini-synopsis in my head–especially when I came to the point where, (yay, pantsing), Daernan and Siklana decide they’re going to sneak off without the mage and go to Soralsyn on their own.

Bingo!

At that point, I realized a bit of rearranging would help the plot. Kirse’Ve isn’t going to take Siklana to Soralsyn on his own, thus leading to more frustration and the final decision that they need to leave.

The earlier plot point I had regarding Daernan’s training is also going to be changed. His trainer isn’t going to force him to use magic’s lure (at least, not directly), but he does show such a disregard for mortals that Daernan is absolutely ready to leave the moment Siklana suggests they go off on their own.

Since Nihestan seems dead-set on killing Toranih, now they have a ticking clock because they need to figure out how to fight the shadows before he does if they even want to get close to her.

And perhaps, once they get themselves lost in Soralsyn (because it is supposed to be difficult to navigate), Kirse’Ve, who’s a bit wiser in how to treat them, comes to their aid–but not without a price. He’s on the same side as the mage who wants to kill Toranih, and he sees the means to do so based on what our heroes learn (but hey, they aren’t lost anymore!).

Now it feels like I know how to get the story on track, and I’m ready to move on to plotting what’s happening with Toranih.

With a little rearranging and a few tweaks to how the plot plays out, you might find that it’s easier to get a derailed plot back on track than you might first think.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you ever run into a derailed plot that was fixable with a few tweaks? 🙂

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