Keeping Options Open

One of the best things I’ve learned to do as an author is to keep things open, leave holes in relationships, and leave questions about the past. Early on I had this bad habit of stating everything straightforward, exploring all aspects of a relationship from the beginning, and tying everything up in a nice little bow. I like closure and definition. But what I learned is that there was little room for growth. I found myself having to constantly introduce new characters or running into dead ends with the plot. The ability to throw out hints and questions that I don’t even know the answer to is remarkably freeing! First of all, it makes the characters, plot, and setting more realistic. Second, it gives me so much material to draw off later! I love coming to a climactic moment and realizing I’ve already hinted at the solution sixty pages ago! It makes me feel clairvoyant. Obviously, that’s not what’s happening here.

I have learned so much about storytelling through practice, study, and real life experience. Due to a slew of failures, I have learned to second guess myself when writing a scene–especially if it comes early on in the plot. I have learned to detect when I am revealing too much information, or when the characters feel so comfortable that there is no room for growth. I pause and ask myself: how can these two have conflict? Do they really know each other that well? How can they learn from each other? I also credit my real life experiences. I have recently had a lot of opportunity to understand conflict and what really motivates people to behave the way they behave. It has helped my writing tremendously.

So if you are a writer I encourage you: even early on, write in some open ends. Throw in some hints, some implications, and some questions. You may not explore them later, but you may find them extremely handy when you are developing plot twists.

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