|Picture by nuttakit at freedigitalphotos.net|
When I’m reading a novel, or writing one, I like to think of the story as a sky, and all the different things in it as stars. Main characters are usually bright burning and easy to see. But main characters by themselves are nothing. And stars by themselves are just stars. As the story works its way forward, we find lines between them, and sometimes clouds pass, and sometimes the unthinkable happens and the sky changes slightly, or hugely and drastically, and the lines change too.
Stars don’t just have to be characters. They can be other essential relationships too – a place that your character always goes to make herself feel sane again, a nasty situation that keeps coming back at her, a daydream she keeps on having.
Sometimes I read the start of a book and can’t get past the first few chapters, and I can’t immediately say why. It’s like something wasn’t there. These are stories without enough constellations. One strong relationship can be beautiful, but most stories exist like webs, with lines woven through one thing and another and another, with stars playing their explosive part in all sorts of constellations at once.
So. If your work in progress is feeling a bit flat today, spend some time staring at the sky, and see if there are any new constellations to be made, or any stars you haven’t seen. You might be surprised.