Tuesday Tips is a new category of posts here at Writerly Life that will be appearing every Tuesday. It’s a series of concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now, and they’re chosen to immediately re-vitalize your writing in some small (but meaningful!) way.
This week’s tip is:
Throw a Wrench in the Works
You’ve got everything all planned out. It’s going to be great. You have your character’s inner turmoil here, his love interest here, his slow self-realization here. The story is pretty as a picture, with everything in its place.
The problem is that a story isn’t a picture; it’s a story. It needs movement, direction, action, suspense. We readers need to be surprised; we need to worry; we need to think we’re heading in the wrong direction, only to discover we were heading in the right direction all along. A story moves, and the fuel that it runs on is conflict. We need regular infusions of conflict to keep the gears moving.
So instead of planning everything out and continuing merrily along that yellow brick road to the end, today, throw a wrench into the works. Introduce a new conflict, a new complication, a new, worrying character. Make something less perfect and beautiful today. Reveal that your character had a previous marriage, a previous drug problem, a previous unacknowledged love child. Put a deer in the road just when that car is heading around the bend. Make someone get lost. Stories need these jolts of reality; otherwise you’ll end up with a story that may seem polished, even exquisite, but is ultimately a still life.