What Comes Next?
On those occasions when I hit the end of a scene – and find myself wondering where to go from there – I frequently turn to my
villain and ask, “What are you doing?”
Especially in my Portals books – a mix of urban fantasy with police procedural with romance – a lot of the plot is action/reaction. A crime is committed. My main characters, Kat Morales, her elf sidekick Tevis and their allies, step in to investigate. The perpetrator moves on to whatever he/she intends to do next …
For me, knowing what the villain – the antagonist – is doing is as critical as knowing what my protagonists are up to.
You don't have to write scenes from your antagonist's point of view – although I've done that in my more recent Portals books, and it can be a heap o' fun! But … I think … you need to have an idea of what that individual is doing, and whether you can use his/her
actions to bring your protagonists either closer to enlightenment or deeper into a swamp of confusion.
I'm a pantser in my writing style: I get a flash of an image in my head, a bare germ of an idea, and I sit down and start writing chapter 1. But at some point past that first burst of writing energy, I start thinking about the back story. Why has this happened? Who is the perp? I start getting a handle on the villain.
Sometimes that isn't immediately obvious. Sister Hoods, book 4 of my series – soon to be released as an ebook – starts with a bank robbery committed by a band of Nymphs and Satyrs. That leads to the question of why Nymphs and Satyrs would rob a bank …
And that leads to the discovery (yeah, us pantsers have to learn these things the same way as our readers) that the Nymphs and Satyrs aren't, in fact, the villains. They're just trying to save their home …
That brings up the question of who the real villain is, and what he's after …
For me, the plot of a book is a kind of dance, all of the characters revolving around each other in moves that can be as deceptively simple as a waltz, as intricate as a ballet, or a complicated mix of steps that pull first one way, then another. Sometimes the dancers move seemingly independent of each other, but they are always bound to one another,
their position on stage dictated in part by their relationship to the other dancers.
That's what helps me when I get stuck in a plot. What's the villain up to? The answer nearly always leads to new discoveries.