Last weekend, I reached peak pandemic and hosted a gathering in my carport. It was a writer’s gathering, aka a Plotting Party, so there was a lot of sitting and staring at our notebooks. And also snacking and freezing. But, as with other joint writing gatherings I’ve hosted, we did use each other to work through problems in our outlines. No one asks more “but why?” questions than a writer except a four-year-old trying to stall bedtime. But why do you want a ball in your story? But why is she in Ireland? But why did the killer drain all the blood? Each story has it’s own answer and it’s fun to hear the reasoning that went into each one.
Of course, being the writer in the hot seat isn’t quite as much fun, but it does serve an important purpose. Searching out the answers to those questions forces me to examine the clues in the story I’m writing as well as my intention for writing the character or story that particular way. When another writer points out that my characters motivations seem implausible I’m forced to confront why I want that scene or why I want the character to behave that way. Being faced with well-intentioned friends who simply want to understand my story is the equivalent of Law & Order level third-degree. Pretty soon I’m caving and confessing that I just like something and I’ve been ignoring my characters motivations all along.
But the added benefit of a plotting party is that I have additional minds to help me brainstorm. And with brainstorming comes encouragement and a cheering section that is irreplaceable. The pandemic has put a lot of things on hold, but creativity and friendship clearly haven’t been one of them. I see more outdoor plotting parties in the future, particularly as the weather gets warmer and I wish all of you a carport full of friends of your very own.