Some writers talk about times when they find they’ve “written themselves into a corner,” and what to do about it. For me, it feels more like having written my way step-by-step into the dark heart of a thicket in which malevolent logic vines are rising up and choking my poor benighted plot to death no matter which way it turns. What’s a fiction writer to do to save her benighted protagonist?
One trick I learned many years ago at the Clarion Writers Workshop was to think of a couple of solutions and jot them down in a list. These are usually either obvious approaches astute readers will expect, or obvious failures, or both. So then I add to the list a minimum of four other possibilities. It’s a form of brainstorming. If I can come up with more, so much the better. Invariably, it’s #5 or #6 or #7 on the list that has real potential. But rather than starting to hack and slash at the thicket like a mad woman, I set it all aside for at least 24 hours, usually longer if I can. I need the perspective that time will give me to look over those options again before taking metaphorical machete in hand. But alas, sometimes there simply isn’t a way out of a particular plot thicket. Sometimes I just have to go back several scenes or more and save my poor protagonist from protagging his or her way into that particular plot thicket.