By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
It's not uncommon to have a plot--either in outline for or first draft form--where your characters are doing what they need to do for the story to unfold. But the reasons might be weak, or non-existent, and you want to find a way to make it all seem logical.
I ran into one of these the other day.
I had a scene in which Nya and the gang return to discover something they'd stolen was missing. (Sorry for being vague, but no spoilers!) But the reason for it was flimsy, and it really stretched credibility for things to unfold as they did. What I needed was a solid plot reason for this to happen as I needed it to.
So I looked back to find that reason.
Often you can change a detail in a previous scene so that a later scene makes sense. In this case, what was stolen was basically junk (to all by Nya) and not something anyone would notice. But what if I made it something of value? Something someone later would be happy to take? Something that fit perfectly with the reasons for taking it?
A few keystrokes later and my scene worked as intended. Better still, that tiny change gave me another idea that made the reason for the missing item even better, and helped connect future scenes.
Things to Look for to Back Fill Your Plot:
1. Is there a previous event or situation that can affect the problem scene?
Chances are your scene doesn't exist in a vacuum. Something had to happen for your characters to be at this point. Go back and look at each of the key scenes that led them in this direction. Is there anything you can do to nudge things in the right direction?
2. Can a character act differently somewhere and change the outcome?
A simple choice can change how a situation later unfolds. This is especially true if the problem scene involves an item of some type, or a piece of information. Having a character find or learn something early on that can simmer in the reader's mind until it's needed can set up what you need to have happen without it feeling contrived.
3. What variables need to work together to achieve the desired result?
Sometimes we just need to step back from the scene and look at it objectively. Forget what you wrote or planned. Ask yourself what steps need to happen for this scene to work. Then look back and see if there are any places where any of those steps might take place.
4. Don't be afraid to change things.
Once you've written something down, it can be hard to change it, but all you're really doing is connecting the dots of the same story. Give yourself the freedom to think about how a change affects scenes down the road. Sometimes that road is better than the one you were on. If it's not, you've lost nothing by thinking about it.
Sometimes it's not the scene that's "broken." It's what came before that scene that is tripping you up. Going back might be just what you need to move forward.