Friday, June 9, 2017

The Consequences of Vagueness

Outlining is great. We’ve learned this. We can put all our plot points onto a line and see the skeleton of our story.

But it's just that. A skeleton. It doesn't have any tissue or muscle or ligaments. No juicy bits to bring the skeleton to life. That's what actual, you know, story is for. The scenes and the action and the dialogue. And that all comes later.

The problem arises when later comes and you realize you don't know what's supposed to go on this part of the skeleton.  We know the general shape of it, from the bones, but is this supposed to be a hand or a flipper or a wing? The squishy parts are unclear.

So, if we can step away from generalizations and talk about what we’re talking about, when my outline says, "an escape route is found," what does that mean? I'm not even to that part yet, but I feel like I should be dropping some clues about that now. I have, at this point, zero idea how they escape from the hellscape shaped pickle they're in. Like, is there a secret door somewhere? Can they somehow go back the way they came?

I don't know.

I really should figure these things out in advance. I can't tell you how many stories I've started with no idea how they ended. It’s like 95% of them. I can't be arsed to plan that all out in advance. I just like to jump in with both feet, blindfolded. There could be any number of things awaiting me… a pristine lake, a pool of lava, a ball pit… doesn’t matter, I'm going in.

I then I get halfway into the tale, getting people into all kinds of trouble, and have no idea how to get them out again. I'm going to become a TV writer, for shows that will be cancelled after one season. I'll write the characters into the worst possible corner… and roll credits. Guess you'll just have to wait until next season—oh, wait. I guess you'll never know. I think that's my true calling.

In cliffhangers that do get resolved, salvation tends to come from somewhere unexpected. It could be a blatant deus ex machina, like someone you thought was dead comes back to save the day, or the cavalry decides to show up in the nick of time. On the other hand it could be that there was some way of escape the whole time, and we the audience just didn't see it.

So which of those things are going to save Jake and Evie? Is some outside force going to help them out? Probably not. So there must be some… thing we haven't seen yet. Perhaps we must determine how they, and the train, came to be in this place to begin with. How does a whole train, with locomotive and cars and track, find itself in this hollow realm home to a soul-devouring entity? These things don't just happen.

It seems in order to work out the end, I need to go back to the beginning.

That's deep. I think I'll just leave it at that.

I'll see you Tuesday.

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