Asking the Right Questions

Sometimes when you write you just get stuck. No matter how well you plot, no matter how well you think things out beforehand, sometimes things just come to a sputtering halt in your writing and you aren’t sure how to go on. When that happens, I always find that asking the right questions – of myself, of my characters, sometimes even just of the story – will kick-start the writing once again.

So, I have been working steadily all month at getting the words done. I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo and determined that I would finish my 50,000 words. I started the novel I’m working on a week or so before the end of October and I am determined to finish it by mid-December, if not sooner. When I began NaNoWriMo, I figured the 50,000 words would put me at, or nearly to, the end of the book by the end of November.

Well, here we are. Today is the first of December. As I’m writing this, I’ve got two days left to finish (I’m writing this on Friday). Actually, for me, I’ve only got today because my family is American and while we live in Europe we still like to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ll be celebrating on Saturday this year when everyone in my family who can come will be here.

I am right on target with my word count, but I have to admit the last couple of days it’s been like pulling teeth. The words aren’t coming. Why?

Because I have no idea how to end this book!

Yes, I plotted the whole thing out in great detail in October, but that doesn’t mean that things have worked out exactly as I had envisioned them. Not only that, but I clearly didn’t think things through in as much detail I should have. In other words, what I had planned won’t really work for where my characters are right and what they’re doing and thinking.

I did a brilliant job (if I may say so, myself) destroying the relationship between my hero and heroine. The black moment was thoroughly black. But now I want to get them back together. In fact, I clearly want to do so so much that I’ve written two scenes that I’ve had to delete because I’m making things too easy. I’m putting the couple back together too fast.

This is a problem I have.

I’ve gotten bad reviews from people who’ve said that I rush the ending. Well, I’m working on this.

Despite the fact that I want more than anything for my hero and heroine to make up and for everything to be made right, I can’t do it as fast as I might want. I need to really make them suffer. I need to really be sure that they are coming together for the right reason at the right time.

In short, I need to ask myself and my characters the right questions in order to figure out the ending of this novel.

For me, those questions are:

How does the black moment affect the internal conflicts of my hero and heroine?

What have they learned throughout the book?

How have they grown?

And most importantly for a romance, What will my hero and heroine give up to be with the other?

In order for me to realize that I needed to ask these questions, I first had to go back to the basics of writing. I had to think about what I would have asked a student of mine when I taught writing, or a client when I’m coaching. These are fundamental questions that need to be asked and answered in order to write complete well-rounded stories and characters. Characters always need to learn something and grow through a story. The black moment of the story needs to be a destruction of not only the external goal of the protagonist but their internal goal as well—or at the very least, they have to stop and rethink exactly what it is they want and why.

Some writers even separate out the black moment into an external black moment and an internal one, which they call the crisis. One happens after the other and usually one leads to the other.

When I get stuck in my writing, stopping and thinking and asking these questions leads me to realizing exactly what scenes I need to write in order for my characters to grow. It allows me to give them the opportunities they need to give up something for the other person. It is that sacrifice that will prove their love. And it is these questions that will lead to a more satisfying ending of my book—and, coincidentally, get me past 50,000 words in time.

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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