My sister-in-law just passed her final test to obtain a concealed gun permit. This is the sister-in-law with an MFA, who does exquisite pastel sketches of wildlife, and whose favorite outdoor activity is hiking in quiet mountains. Knowing that she also wanted a concealed gun permit – although not the reason why – got me thinking about my characters. What tiny secret could they have – one that even the reader doesn’t know yet – that will give me a new way of getting them out of the mess I put them in? In other words, can I write myself out of writers block by re-imagining my characters?
To advance the plot, you need to torment your characters. How they persevere despite the villain’s best efforts is part of what makes them grow. However, if you’ve written a problem that requires an act of Congress to resolve, you either have to revise the obstacle or revisit your character.
I think writers need a concealed permit of our own. We need to keep our hats chock full of rabbits – reasonable rabbits, of course – to pull out when our characters are in trouble. Whether it’s a secret skill or just a secret, get to know your characters well enough to add in that special ingredient when the situation requires. Just remember to sprinkle in a few clues during the revision so the reader says, “Ah!” instead of “yeah, right.”