Plotting Along

This weekend was pure torture.

And by pure torture I mean intermittent irritation in a backdrop of a wonderful weekend.  So clearly I choose my words wisely.

I woke up to an unusual sound on Friday.  Puzzled, I looked about the room, wondering what was sputtering and hissing little death pangs.  Then a memory sparked, and joy filled me. 

It was too much to hope for, surely?

I approached the radiator slowly.  Knelt before it, and inclined my head.  Yes.

I had heat.

Heat.  I love heat in the winter.  And to think, I thought merely being insulated from the elements was gift enough.  What a treasure trove of comfort my new apartment is!

Insulation, hot water AND HEAT.  All was good with the world.  And as my new carpet had been delivered–my sole piece of furniture in my living room, bookshelves aside–I sat me down on a corner and enjoyed a delicious avocado sandwich and coffee.  Perfection.  Now my rug had served as a dining table and chair, too.  Why, it was as if I had said luxuries in my home.

I lay back and pondered my book.  And so it served as a sofa.  I enjoyed it muchly.

But even so, it wasn’t enough to keep the hounds at bay.

For as I’ve mentioned, I was having problems.  Character problems.  Worse–antagonist problems.  Me!

I thought about him.  I paced the floor.  I wrote his thoughts.  His justifications.  I cleaned the fridge.  I thought about him some more.  I cut my nails.  Realized I needed a hair cut.  Made soup.  I listened to his playlist.  I made cheese and spinach pastries.  I cleaned the dishes.  I washed the sink.  I cleaned the toilet.  I grumbled.

I read a book that had nothing to do with my own work.  I got an idea that didn’t fit.  I wrote it down anyway. 

I searched for a quote that had moved me, and realized it was online and not in my books.  I was not online. 

I bought wine.  I drank it.  I noted belatedly that I ought not drink before writing. 

I fixed my drapes.  Then they fell.  I moved them under the bed.  And then I moved them into the closet.

I looked under my bed to make sure it was clean.  It was.  How unfortunate.  My cursor blinked.  I looked away again.

And that’s when I realized.  I had a plot hole.  Which is very much like a pothole.  You can avoid it, but at the end of the day, the road isn’t good if it’s potholed.  It wasn’t my character who was failing, it was his options which weren’t clear to me–because of a tiny question mark I’d noticed and never fixed.

So I spent most of Sunday sitting on my couch carpet writing alternate diagrams to figure out that tiny bit of backstory without which the plot founders 365 pages later.


Peering out of a Church

Peering out of a Church


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in character development, fiction, first drafts, plot, plot development, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Plotting Along

  1. Yarnspnr says:

    Amazing how one li’l plot hole can founder the whole ship! I’m sure you’ll fight through it, talented as you are! Hopefully you’re over your illness and now are beset only by mundane writerish issues! Good luck!

    • sputnitsa says:


      I was in a meeting today and someone was diagramming something. In a snap my head was back in my own diagrams; had to shake it to re-enter the world of the meeting.

      Is this a mundane writerish issue? I felt distinctly unimpressed with myself as I tortured my mind for the answer. I’ve been throwing options around at myself for a day. I don’t know the answer, and it’s real mental exercise, thinking up all the alternate possibilities… It’s making me question my decisions, my characters’ motivations–everything.

      Don’t get me wrong–it’s good, because I want them to resound as true. But it’s alot of thinking when what I want to be doing is writing. My word count went down again this morning…

      Gack! But thanks for the health wishes 🙂

      How’s your work going? Clear skies ahead?

  2. ralfast says:

    I like the analogy!

  3. Hey Sput,

    I am really sorry that you hit this snag, but this post totally cracked me up. Not that I get joy out of other’s sufferings, mind you.

    But seriously, you have a way of making the the most mundane things hysterically funny.

    But onto your antagonist problems- I’ve found that when an answer won’t come to me, to concentrate strongly on it (like you did) and then let it go. Then the answer will come hours, days, weeks (hopefully not that long) later when I’m in doing the dishes or something.

    Good luck! 🙂

    • sputnitsa says:

      Heh. 🙂

      I’m glad my agonies cause you mirth. I hate to think my pangs were of no use to the world at large.


      Seriously, danke.

      I think I’m going to bash my head into the problem for a bit longer, but what I took to this morning was just focusing on the book again–the parts I know I want in, and the parts that need some editing, and also just reading to get into the mood again so this part of the process feels less like mental acrobatics and more *cough* plot driven and mood-ensconced. (Does that make sense?)

      That said, that meeting today made me completely rethink my troublesome villain for a moment. I want to feel that new insight again and punch it out. Maybe there’s something there. Plus someone made an awesome remark which I really jived with… I wonder if it has a place here…

      🙂 Gack! Is writing really this … multifaceted and multidirectional and mad a process? Is it?

      Seriously… Is it??? Or is it just me? 🙂

      Thankee and good luck to you too!

  4. “Gack! Is writing really this … multifaceted and multidirectional and mad a process? Is it?”

    *cue Twilight Zone Music*- Yes, hon, it is. Resistance is futile. Embrace the madness. 😉

    “Seriously… Is it??? Or is it just me?”

    Nope. You’re not alone. You’ve just entered the world of mad writers. 🙂

    “Thankee and good luck to you too!”

    Thankee back! You’ll figure all the problems out with time. Good luck!

    • sputnitsa says:

      Heh. 🙂

      The thing about the first time through is…from time to time one wonders.

      Actually, last night I sought solace in my Norton’s Anthology of English Literature. Well, to be more frank, I sought inspiration. Instead, I found resonance and joy.

      Why? Because Keats, Wordsworth–other such luminaries–have pages of draft poems in the final section of the anthology. Drafts massacred with angry lines marked through words, sections, entire stanzas.


      Words were plucked out, exchanged and hurled aside; entire stanzas were written and dropped aside in frustration and ire. Deliciousness. This suffering is not unique to me. The struggle is part of craft. No matter how great the writer… he or she hits roadbumps. Also known as the wrong words, wrong structure, wrong rhythm, wrong mood, etc etc.

      Hm. Should this daunt me, these tall shadows cast by the Greats? I must be on crack, for it delights me instead. 🙂

      Btw, thanks for the Mad Writers’ World ID card. I appreciate your handing it out at the door. 🙂

  5. hope101 says:

    Gypsyscarlett beat to me it, dang!

    Seriously, the fact that you care so much about your story tells me you probably will have the persistence and resilience to do whatever it takes. Hang in there. Might as well enjoy the ride. 😉

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