Elizabeth Goddard is back at the Pink Heart Society, talking about what to do when the impossible rears its ugly head in a manuscript...
I recently realized that I’m living the dream. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do what they love for a living? My love of reading naturally translates into a love of creating my own stories. I can travel anywhere and do all sorts of things I’ve always wanted to do, living vicariously through my characters. One of the perks of my job is that I can watch movies for fun and it counts as work too.
For far too many people, doing what they love for a living is impossible, and it was that way for me too until I took a big risk. A leap of faith, if you will.
It’s taken me hard work and years to get here. I started writing novels and pursuing publication in 2001. You would think by now that I would already know that I’m a bona fide novelist. That I’m a “real” writer. But it wasn’t until my work produced a steady income stream that I allowed myself to say I write for a living. A meager living yes, but I’m doing it and like any career, you work hard and hope for results and that your income will continue to increase.
The hardest part of my job, other than the writing itself and carving out the necessary time, is creating an impossible situation for my characters to face. To me the best novels are the ones where we don’t know how things can ever be resolved. Don’t you agree?
After I’ve gathered copious amounts of research, much of which I never use in my novel, then I start developing the story.
And sometimes, no matter the research or the expert confab, the story world will throw me the proverbial wrench. An impossible situation that I must overcome. So I’ve had to throw it back.
This has happened to me twice, and I have learned to run with it and let the impossible make the story even better.
In Oregon Outback, I proposed four romantic suspense novellas set in Oregon the last of which was based on a bounty hunter. During the writing of that last novella, I learned that bounty hunting is illegal in Oregon. You’d think I would have discovered that before the fact—but this was earlier in my career and I’m only human and hey, I’m learning, okay? I’ve since learned that this can happen to the best of novelists, so I’m in a good crowd.
Sure. I freaked at first. But then I realized I could use this to create a twist in the story and up the stakes.
What better conflict than to have a bounty hunter looking for a fugitive in a state where it’s illegal? So I used the impossible to my advantage.
The same thing happened during the writing of Backfire. I was near the end of the first draft and the book was due in a few short weeks when I had another confab with my resident expert only to discover that in all my ample research I had somehow missed an important detail. A vital detail. I spoke with other experts to see if there was a way I could make things work. But the answer was a big fat no.
It was impossible.
Unless I wanted to defy the laws of nature in the region and call it artistic license. After all, this is fiction. But I didn’t want to do that either because I want to stay true to what can happen in southeast Alaska.
Of course my initial reaction was to panic, but I also remembered what I’d done in Oregon Outback and immediately began thinking how I could use this new information as a twist in the story. I took a day or two to consider all my options before I added the new twist.
And you know what? The story was even better for it. In fact, it was the right course for the story even if I hadn’t discovered the problem. I can’t tell you what it is here because that would spoil the story for you! But I invite you to read the third book in my Mountain Cove series set in beautiful southeast Alaska.
Have you read any novels lately with twists you hadn’t seen coming? Or have you faced the impossible in your story? Have a little faith in yourself and your story. Face the impossible and consider using that for your twist.
Elizabeth's latest book, Backfire, is available now:
Tracy Murray had thought she'd be safe disappearing in the wilds of Alaska after her testimony put away a gang leader. But the gang symbol tattooed on an attacker's arm means the clock has run out. She's been found—and she knows the killers won't let her escape alive again.
She can't fight an entire gang alone—she needs help. But when she finds herself relying on widowed firefighter David Warren, a new struggle emerges. Fleeing Alaska and cutting all ties could be the only way to survive…but it would mean leaving her heart behind.
Elizabeth Goddard graduated with a B.S. degree in computer science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dream of becoming an author.