I met with my writing group last night. We discussed a 20 page section of my story that involves Tallula’s love interest and the question came up – should a predictable plot line be avoided? Or is the natural unfolding of a story what should be honored, even if it is expected?
I’ve always been a fan of stories that go someplace that I, as a reader, didn’t know they were going. The book that came up as an example last night was “1000 Acres,” by Jane Smiley. There’s a book I couldn’t put down, and mostly because it took me by surprise in a lot of ways.
As a matter of fact, as I sit here reviewing the books I’ve read and enjoyed, I can’t think of a single one that didn’t have some element of genuine surprise woven into the plot. So what does it mean to let a story unfold naturally? To me it means writing under the umbrella of that old adage “first idea, best idea,” and frankly, I’ve always found that to lead to dull stories.
For me it, it’s always 20th idea, best idea. If I need a brother and sister to have a fight I’ll make a list of 20 things they might fight about. It’s only around idea 15 or 16 that things start to get interesting. It’s only when I dig deep for story that I find the creativity that lends to juicy plot.
So where does that leave me in my challenge of how to manage Tallula’s love interest? Well in the first draft things unfolded very naturally (predictably). I think it’s time to shake them up a bit.