What do you do when the plot goes wrong?
It’s a bit like when cream splits, the plot doesn’t thicken. This recently happened to me; our plots fly by the seat of my pants and one of them came tumbling down three-quarters through the first draft. Let me explain, one of the characters was biographical, they really had existed and we began to become uncomfortable, the way the plot was going, that I could end up libelling or misrepresenting a real person and really upsetting, unnecessarily, relatives of the real person. Is this important? Well I think so, we are not engaged in writing a biography of someone in which any opinions or events expressed carry (it is to be hoped) the weight of evidence, in which case, fair game. This is a piece of fiction, a piece of make-believe, solely an invention. So what do you do?
Firstly, we analysed the situation and decided that to leave the biographical and named character in under the present situation was unfair and unethical. To leave them in but to play them down would render the plot’s structure and surprises innocuous. Was there another route?
We found one, it means a major rewrite of parts in order to render the same character as a child of fiction, with a new name, occupation, history, relatives and most importantly a reason to exist. It was quite a wrench to come to this conclusion and we delayed longer than we should. We have lost valuable time which I doubt we can make up but at least we should be happier with the result. If you end up with this type of problem I recommend grasping the nettle early on, the quicker you do, the quicker you will find the dock leaves!