Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Pachinko Construct

What do you do when the story/characters/etc. bring you to a spot where you can go one way or another and both are great twists? How do you choose?

A writing instructor once told me that a book is simply the result of an infinite number of choices a writer makes as he/she tells his/her story. (To which I replied, “Simply?”)

plinkoTo visualize that concept, I sometimes picture a giant pachinko machine (or the Plinko game on The Price is Right) when I outline my story. As the idea “ball” drops through the story, it encounters thousands of junctures where the story could go one way or the other. Unfortunately, this complexity usually freezes me up, and I’ll have to lie down for a bit to recover.

Seriously, though, that’s exactly what I do when I’m faced with a significant choice, a Path A or Path B kind of decision. I’ll step back and really think about the ramifications of each option. I’ll try to noodle through how the story will go under Scenario A, and then I’ll do the same with Scenario B (and C and D, etc.).

After I do that, I’ll flip a coin go with my gut.

Let me say that I do most of this “What Iffing” during the outline process, which makes it less likely I’ll face a significant decision point during the actual writing. But it happens once in a while (I welcome those flashes of inspiration with open fingers), and when it does, I’ll go lie down for a bit to think it over. Ah, the possibilities.

Of course, if the chosen twist turns out NOT to work out in the end, I’ll go back and revise my story until I get it right.

Pachinko, anyone?

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)