I’m torn between abandoning my WIP and pressing on. Of course, I’m more inclined towards the latter. But I’ve come to the devastating conclusion that I am not ready to write this story. I was never meant to write this story. Yes, I had fun writing it. But that, really, seems to be all there is to it. It’s just a story, a simple shallow story without a discernable theme, inconsistent characters and a meek plot. I don’t have anything to say about anything, and my characters are just going with the flow, not forced to make their own decisions or learn something about themselves or the world they live in.
Long story short (pun unintended), I can’t go on.
A hiatus and a revision later, 15 MINUTES DOWN SUNSET AVENUE is still not working. It feels like I’m surrendering, giving up at page 241 now, but I simply don’t know how to rev up the engine again. Here I am, giving in to the midstory goblin, just like I had for MINT. Except while I gave up at page 157 for MINT, I’m giving up at page 241 now.
But 15 MINUTES is a complete mess, in terms of plot, characters and theme. The characters are inconsistent, especially Prince, and the stakes are not high enough. The subplots are not complementing the main plot as well as I would like them to, and the characters haven’t experienced the proverbial end of the world before dawn breaks. And I’m already at page 241. How long more am I going to make my characters walk about on the page? How are the characters going to make tough choices if there isn’t a strong enough conflict to jolt them into action?
Okay. Deep breath. One problem at a time.
Problem 1: character.
Prince. One of the main characters. Arrogant, narcissistic pop idol who went on a two-year hiatus after his father, with whom he is very close, died. He has decided to fulfil his father’s wish and make a comeback. Problem: in the period he’s been gone, other pop idols have risen and eclipsed him, but his fans remain loyal and stand by him throughout his tumultuous journey to reclaim his throne.
And that’s where the logical problem lies. If he’s got such a huge and devout fan base, why would his comeback be such a struggle for him? I wrote it such that his arrogance and impetuousness is the reason why directors and music producers are reluctant to work with him. But he’s a good cash cow – wouldn’t they fight to work with him even though he’s really difficult to work with? Also, I intended to make his comeback really tough and fraught with problems (personal life – his relationship with Chloe; public image – a sore loser who can’t deal with competition; reputation – impulsive, conceited brat, rude to the media), but how tough can it be if there are so many fans supporting him? Because for all his shortcomings, Prince is the best when it comes to his fans and close friends. I need him to have a redeeming quality, you see, otherwise readers will hate him.
Also, another problem: his father died. If he was so devastated by his father’s death, so much so that he had to take a 2-year hiatus from work, wouldn’t he be more humble and less arrogant, narcissistic and impulsive? He would be more sombre, or at least slightly more mature, wouldn’t he? But I’ve always had the image of Prince as an arrogant brat who is, if nothing, generous to the people he loves. People who know him love him as much as they hate him, while his fans are completely smitten with him. So that’s another problem.
Next, the problem of theme. Every story needs one. Every story needs to circle around this theme and provide an insight into the human condition (or at least, just the protagonist’s condition) or the environment he or she lives in. What’s the theme for 15 MINUTES? What was my theme for MINT? Am I making the same mistake? Not digging deep enough into my story? I suppose Chloe’s fear of stepping out of her comfort zone could be something readers might relate to. That, and her inability to make decisions for herself, seeing as how she is so used to taking care of others and putting other people’s needs before her own. I could use this encounter with Prince and his world to trigger a character transformation in Chloe. But, if Chloe was afraid to step out of her comfort zone, why would she agree to be Prince’s assistant? Oh right, because of the money. Her parents’ business venture failed….
(Don’t mind me. I’m just thinking aloud.)
Another problem: plot. What are the stakes, for Chloe and Prince? They aren’t high enough. Their problems are not big enough to make readers want to stick around and find out what happened to them in the end. No one will care. Prince needs to lose everything he has. His career, Chloe … his fans? He (and Chloe, now employed as his personal assistant) need to abandon all hope, make a decision, stick to it and live with the consequences. But he hasn’t lost enough yet. Maybe I’m mollycoddling my characters too much. I don’t want anything too bad to happen to them. Maybe that’s why I’m stuck in this stalemate. I have my antagonist, Sawyer, who is Prince’s bandmate and now rival (because he signed on to be a pop idol without telling Prince) in both the spotlight and in love (i.e. Chloe). I have Prince’s mother, who will remove anyone and anything that stands in the way of Prince’s success. But how to make them work – how to weave the story, subplots with main plot – is the question.
Anyone who thinks writing a story is easy needs to try it on their own.