No matter how careful I am when building my outline, there is always a point where I am writing by the seat of my pants. As I am normally rather a linear plotter, this can really change the direction a tale goes in.
I hear people whining all the time about this character or that one dying right and left in Game of Thrones. I don’t have HBO, so I’ve never seen it, but I have friends who seem to find this distressing. I suspect that winging it and writing to a deadline is why people die so frequently in George R.R. Martin’s world–it’s certainly how they meet a messy end in my world.
But how do we fly freely with our narrative, and yet not destroy the awesome story arc we have created? How do we avoid having to hide the mangled corpses of our beloved characters when they might be useful later?
Enter my home-made Dial-a-Plot (sustainably powered by dark matter). It’s just your standard circular thingy that can be printed out and taped to your desk. Whenever you have lost your way writing your epic fantasy, rather than resort to a sudden influx of something as far-fetched as cannibal fairies, feel free to refer back to this little gadget to remind you of those elements that really drive a plot.
When your writing mind has temporarily lost its momentum and you are stretching the boundaries of common sense, it can’t hurt to take some time to consider the central themes that inject true tension into the story, to keep the action moving and the heroes swinging their swords.