take your story off its path
Just when Dorothy discovers the yellow brick road and her purpose to find the wizard, she stumbles upon three pathetic characters in search of their own miracles.
When Alice is looking for the white rabbit, two silly characters send her off in opposite directions. She must choose a path.
Few stories follow one road. Skilled writers find creative ways to take their characters off the beaten path and into the figurative (and literal) woods. Characters must make critical choices to move the plot along, that force them to deal with story's central conflict. (Here's a great article on Nigel Watts' "8-Point Story ARC".)
If your main character is going to transform and grow, he needs a challenge. He needs his worth and values tested. In order to succeed at this, as the author, you must invent some forks in their road. They need to make choices to turn left or right, bring friends along or go it alone, eat the cake or drink the bottle.
Here are some sample critical choices where your character can make a change in direction and perhaps discover a world or information about himself that otherwise might have gone unnoticed.
1. meets a girl or boy - a love interest
2. receives an invitation
3. forgets something and must turn back or veer off course
4. doesn't do something that's a main part of his routine
5. gets injured
6. loses something
7. breaks something
8. loses someone - a death
9. has to deal with a sudden change in weather - natural disaster
10. gets kicked off a team, fired from a job
11. gets on a team, hired for a new job
12. gets a good or bad grade
13. encounters a stranger
14. must move to a new town (someone gets a job, loses a job, starts college...)
You can see this list could go on and on. Forks in the road can appear out of nowhere. You don't need to warn the reader that an earthquake is coming and the family must prepare. It simply hits, and whole worlds are shaken.
Consider your story, the plot, theme, your main character.What critical choice might they need to make that could take their path in a whole new direction?
Please share your ideas for more 'forks in the road'.
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