When Trains Collide: Building a Compelling Plot
Upon reaching page 100 in my novel draft, I realize that I know one of my trains really well. By train, I mean my protagonist. The other train in question is a mysterious woman key to the plot but who hasn't been on the page much yet. It's her I don't know.
When I was at UCF as an undergrad, professors said the writer's job was to set trains on the tracks in a plot to prepare for the crash (or climax) to happen. I want to attribute this piece of wisdom to Jeanne Leiby and/or Susan Hubbard, though I'm not sure it was one of them and/or that they didn't share the metaphor from some other writing sage. But both women played a significant role in my enthusiasm for writing and early growth as a writer. To sum up: they said lots of awesome and insightful things.
I'm in a place now where forward momentum in the novel must stop until I get to know this mystery woman as well as I know my protagonist. What that will look like in the next few days is figuring out who she is and what has happened to her in a timespan of almost 10 years. I also need to chart what she's been doing on the same days I've already written my protagonists experiences—when the trains are running parallel, yet to really collide. Most of this research into my mystery gal will never show up on the novel's pages. But I'm reminded of something I heard about Stephanie Meyer—she has a version of Twilight called Midnight Sun that is the story told from Edward Cullen's perspective. Confession: I enjoy Meyer's Twilight series but always find the vampires part of the stories more interesting than that of Bella, the protagonist. I'd read the dickens out of the same stories told from Edward Cullen's point of view.
My novel in progress has no similarity whatsoever to Meyer's work I'm referencing here, but I'm encouraged that she started Midnight Sun as a character exercise, such as I'm about to embark on. I hope my character adventure yields great results so I can get both trains back on the tracks and resume forward momentum toward that inevitably and appropriately fiery crash.