Plot versus Theme
Any writer can experience that moment where you suddenly realize that your “idea” of the story isn’t going to get you to the end. Maybe you had a plan, but now the characters have changed in one way or another, and the end doesn’t make sense any more.
You feel devastated! But, this can actually turn into something liberating. It isn’t your job to “know” how to get to the end. Your job is to inquire into the nature of what you are attempting to express, and let your muse come up with the goods.
It’s not just first-time writers who struggle with plot. Every writer struggles with shedding the idea of the story for the truth of the story.
The solution is to recognize that your plot is simply a vehicle for what you’re attempting to express. Focus on the theme. Stay connected to that while holding your idea of the story loosely.
Character suggests Plot
Our idea of our novel, memoir, or screenplay is never the whole story. As we inquire into the world we often discover that we must shed our idea of it. This helps us gain an even wider perspective.
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book that wandered around, and found yourself asking, “What is this about?”
When the writer places their focus squarely on the plot while ignoring the characters, the theme gets blurry. It is character that suggests plot. Only by trusting our instincts and allowing our characters to surprise us can we arrive at a satisfying plot.
We must not confuse our instincts with our ideas. Our instincts will lead us to a deeper truth, while our ideas will ultimately betray our characters by squeezing them into a box.