Wrote myself into corner. Short-term help with plot/characterization?


#1

Hi. If you already know me and my work, then you may know plotting has never been my strongest area in writing. Sometimes plot events happen more for some symbolic importance than because character motivations make sense. But I know that’s not good writing. I know.

So, this time, I found, while working on rewrites of Chapter Seven of a certain work that things were going really slow. I wasn’t blocked, exactly, but muddling.

And, the ‘good’ news is that I think I’ve reasoned out the cause.

I now suspect that on a subconscious level I knew that character motivations in an upcoming scene didn’t 100% make sense. How could I write the transition scenes leading up to that established event while part of my brain realized that event (although cemented in and pivotal to the plot) wasn’t really clearly motivated or necessarily in character.

So, I’m asking for help or advice.

I need to keep some form of this scene in the work. I mean the end results can’t change much. So, I need to work out some circumstances or motivations that I can introduce that will make it more plausible.

So, I’m going to post this and go make an additional comment with the details of the problem scenes, but meanwhile, feel free to share general plot troubleshooting advice or to comment about the corners you may have faced.


#2

The problem character and scenes:

The character with most unclear motivation is Psyche. This version of Psyche diverges from the mythological one when during the era of the Romanticism movement she and companions somewhat manipulate Eros into challenging a vampire archer to a contest. Short version: Eros technically wins at archery but by shooting blindfolded Psyche with a special arrow he enables her to choose to remove the blindfold and look on the vampire. Psyche then acts as travel companion and lover to this vampire for the next couple centuries, much of it spent traveling across the US by rail or car and sometimes menacing or murdering humans.

Story-present: it’s the 1990s and most of the characters are in NYC. Eros, still miffed that he was manipulated and that Psyche declared herself divorced from him to be with a vampire uses his powers and arrows to stealthily shoot the vampire, causing him to them fall in love with a fashion design student at Parsons. It’s doubtful he really believes he can get Psyche back. But he probably want’s to break-up her relationship with the vampire. The fashion student isn’t anyone remarkable to Eros, but he is someone that Eros may be able to defend is the vampire’s type to explain this action isn’t too far beyond his duty.

The vampire (named Athen) then poses as a fine art student and successfully romances the fashion major (Julien) and the two have been dating.

Athen the vampire was probably still seeing Psyche during some part of this time he was with Julien, but it’s likely he’s been seeing her less and that their relationship was no longer as intimate.

At some point, Psyche gets motivated to do something?

Here’s where it doesn’t really make sense when I think about it objectively.

Apparently, Psyche locates Julien when he’s out on Black Friday (after Thanksgiving). She somehow gets him in a car with her. (Her child, Splendor is driving). Psyche reveals something to Julien. Could be that Athen is a vampire. Could be that Athen is still with her. She then presents Julien with a flashlight/torch and a knife. (Because her sisters gave her a lamp/candle and a knife?) For some reason, Julien decides to use the knife on himself. (Splendor I know is distraught to witness this and teleports away to tell someone what happened.) Others, including Athen, appear on the scene (they were already looking for Julien and the car was near their home by this time). Athen, not willing to allow Julien to die forces him to swallow his blood. It’s not clear exactly how conscious Julien was when this happened. We do know from later scenes that Julien is mad that he became a vampire against his will, though he does later regret trying to take his life on that occasion and is eventually at peace with surviving as a vampire.

Psyche’s ‘superpower’ is that she knows the mental state others are in. She doesn’t affect mental state or thoughts, she just knows them. So whatever her original motivation, it’s not clear why she wouldn’t have known what Julien would do or if she knew/understood his motivation she would go on. There’s no sign Psyche had personal animosity towards Julien.

It is possible she wanted Julien to see Athen for what he was the way her sisters in the myth wanted her to see Eros as the beast and have the option to kill ‘the beast’. Maybe she suspected that if Julien knew, he’d break up with Athen and then Psyche could just be with him again?

And if that was her motivation, it’s more likely her revelation to Julien was focused on Athen keeping his vampirism secret.

Also, it’s not clear whether Psyche knows that Eros is responsible. If she does know, it’s unclear why she doesn’t just reveal that to Athen. Maybe there’s a rule against this among her people? Maybe that seems more hurtful? Or, if she doesn’t know, does that help explain what she would be more likely to risk Athen being injured?

Psyche isn’t her stepmother. But here, she seems like she’s acting like her sisters or stepmother. Why? Is this irrational action her wake-up call that she’s become those manipulative people who hurt her in the past and she needs to correct and stop being OK with menacing humans?

Right now, there’s not enough information in the story to explain these motivations.

And neither Psyche nor Julien is a POV character (which contributed to me writing myself into this corner) so the reader always receives the news of these events after the fact (Splendor was a witness to some of it) or through a character arriving on the scene after most of it has happened. This enabled me to have weak writing where the POV characters just observe that something has happened without showing how and why it did happen.


#3

So, how is the information being relayed to the reader?


#4

In one book in the series, the POV character (another vampire) is standing next to Athen when they find Psyche and Julien at the limousine and sees what Athen does.

In this current book, but in the previous draft, the information is summarized as something the POV character (Morpheus) just knows through scrying or time traveling.

In the rewrite, Splendor tells Morpheus (the POV character) what just happened. Morpheus knows Julien can’t just be dead because the time-travel aspect means he knows Julien is sometime later a vampire. He is distraught about whether he can/should prevent what he suspects Athen is about to do. Morpheus and Splendor go to the location where this all happened and they see Julien feed from a human for the first time.


#5

So, the POV sees part of it happen? How do they react? Confused? Or do they immediately know what’s going on? Do they try to ask other characters to get more answers? Walk me through it.

Ah, I see.

And how does Splendor know what happened?


#6

Bookmarking to read after work


#7

So, from the one point of view of the brood of vampires, the one who narrates/is POV character is Athen’s biological father and the one who turned him.

Standing with him is Blade who is Julien’s biological sister.

Blade is basically freaking out on the street that Julien is dead.

This makes it slightly understandable that Athen acts without asking Julien. But, really, characters who know Athen probably believe he just does it to make Julien stay.

It’s a parallel to an earlier part of the story when Morpheus uses bottled blood to make an other unconscious character a vampire. Morpheus was acting for someone who wasn’t conscious but who he didn’t previously know well enough to understand what her choice would be. But he had to act one way or another, so he and his mother ultimately used the blood, hoping it would be seen as a good samaritain type action.

So, later, when it comes to a similar situation with Julien, Morpheus and other character may like to believe Athen is acting in good faith to save someone.

Blade doesn’t think it ideal, but she doesn’t understand why Julien wouldn’t rather be a live vampire like her than dead.

But no one really stops to ask Psyche why she did all this, because at the time it happens, they are so busy trying to help Julien adapt to being a vampire, which he did have a lot of difficulty with.

But from the reader’s perspective, if they stop to think for a second, Psyche’s actions may not make sense.

Splendor, Psyche and Eros’ child, was physically in the car and knows what Psyche probably said. But the details weren’t given in the previous draft.

Now, if Splendor reports the events. It is relevant exactly what Psyche said and whether Julien showed any particular response.

Splendor’s not the main POV character, but they are a confidant to Morpheus and a witness, so they would relay the information with emotion though dialogue.

This is all making me realize that’s why I’ve had trouble writing the transition scene (that shows a brief example of how Athen and Julien acted with each other in public in the weeks before this event).

I must have realized that the rewrite was leading me to have to explain motivations I had just weakly not established. :frowning:


#8

But if Psyche acted purely based on emotion, it doesn’t have to make sense.

Don’t try to assign logic to emotions because it doesn’t work that way.


#9

Thank you.

But, I guess I’m thinking of it like if it’s irrational/emotional what emotion is it that is the motivation? Anger? Jealousy?

I wrote it and it doesn’t make sense to me. So, I’m feeling mad at myself. :slight_smile:


#10

Why not a mix of many? It doesn’t have to be just one.


#11

You’re right.

I just don’t even know what possessed her to set-up Julien.

If she knows Eros shot Athen, she should be mad at Eros.

If she doesn’t know, and she just thinks Athen is leaving her, she should be sad or something.

I mean, not that someone should feel only a prescribed emotion, but there’s usually some kind of trigger.


#12

Okay. Let’s say she knows. How would she have known?


#13

If Psyche knows what Eros did: A. She only suspects based on known rivalry and sudden chain of heart. B. Eros could have threatened it. (There’s no scene showing this). C she and Eros share a workplace with others in their realm and it became known there.

(Potentially Julien is possible soulmate of Morpheus and when in this timeline he entered a relationship with Athen, it triggered an investigation into why he’d ended up with someone else and members of their family such as Eros" mom learned what Eros did.)

C is likely as A is. There are existing scenes that suggest others working in region of Love investigated and later on made attempt to correct timeline to how it otherwise would have developed.

But, existing scenes aren’t clear when investigation happens: before or after Julien and Psyche meet.


#14

Well, based on what you’ve written so far, which is more likely and why?


#15

Before and after are both likely. Though so far existing scenes don’t demonstrate either due to POV. It plausible as soon as Athen showed interest Psyche became suspicious. She doesn’t sense love, but she could sense a change in mind from being satisfied to abruptly wanting to sweetly romance a human. She would have approached her mother in law first who would have herself sensed Eros had interfered. And even if she didn’t willingly tell Psyche this, Psyche could have sensed her shock or panic or puzzlement and concluded the rest

But Psyche knowing…her actions seem out of character unless it’s all highly rationalized. The future course correction depends on Morpheus already having met a vampire Julien from the future (Splendor has this information). But Julien wouldn’t be in a state of mind to choose vampirism. (Psyche would know this.) Thus something had to push another vampire to turn him against his will. Blade even sad to lose her brother wouldn’t have easily been the one. What she wanted most was for him to have a human life. Shade believes people have the right to end their life. So, it would have to be Athen is pushed to do it.

But making sure Julien endangers his own life? Psyche must have willingly and rationally said some cruel things. She would have very likely known Julien had one past attempt when he was younger.


#16

If both are likely, which one would cause the most chaos in the story?

Is that out of character for Psyche? Does she have a high regard for human life?


#17

I don’t quite follow the past attempt here. Are you referring to becoming a vampire there?

I agree with @Lumi’s question about which situation causes the most chaos n the story.

What happens to Julien after becoming a vampire? What advantage is there for the others to have him be one?


#18

@Lumi Psyche didn"t maintain the highest regard for Humans during her time with A then, but among her immortal people There’s a high value placed on balance and although reality for them and humans is nondeterministic, they do interfere to change events if they consider something intrusive happens to cause imbalance in the world.

It cause the chaos of Julien being forced to be a vampire, if we assume the case where Psyche knows about Eros and is working within her duty to correct balance.

If she finds out after, There’s less rational reasons to interfere with Julien in the first place and I’m back to not understanding her motives.

@JMills There’s the most advantage to others only when the alternative is Julien being dead. Otherwise, most characters would wish for him to live a normal human life, even A then.

The complication beyond that is time whimsy, due to non-cronological events, some characters know that in a future time Julien is a vampire. They may not know when or how it happened or who did it, but they understand that as a known point that cannot be changed.

Mostly, that plot was separate from Psyche actions.

I just wrote her doing this dramatic thing because something like it happened to her once. That’s the bad plotting I would do.

Now, I’m struggling to make it work. Why would Psyche, who is an intelligent being also capable of deep emotion, who understands love, who has been put through trials of her own, who found her balance of pleasure and pain with a vampire, act in a way that on the surface seems the role of stereotypical jealous shrew female character?

Be cause she loves Athen? No. That doesn’t make sense. She was was shot with the arrow of erotic love, but she also chose freely who to look upon. She doesn’t care about monogamy. So she probably doesn’t care if Athen is with someone else. And if Athen says he doesn’t want to be with her in the same way, she would likely go to friends for support.

If she did, (persephone-like) Death might have accidentally advised her in such a way that Psyche devised a plan that doesn’t seem rational to others.

IDK.

It does cause some chaos if Psyche does this all to force Athen to make Julien a vampire, because somehow that future happens, but if so, Psyche wouldn’t be able to say that…

But that only causes external conflict if found out.


#19

What if she saw a perceived future that showed all this, and decided to act on them, thinking it was the correct method? Since she’s intelligent, maybe she’s foreseen alternate realities and the one she chooses pushes her to do these actions, which forces her to become how she is now?

Just a random idea, but not sure if you have characters thay do have foreseeable abilities?


#20

Yeah, in the universe of this story there are various types of supernatural beings and, as in the myth, Psyche was born human (we’re saying maybe a Princess of Lydia in the first millennium BCE), then she was later granted supernatural abilities.

So, it is possible in the fictional setting she knows things happen. Time exists. Past can affect future and future can affect past. From the point of view of the reader, Psyche (as well as some other characters) may or may not be doing things in chronological order.

But, that said, it’s non-deterministic. She doesn’t do a thing because it’s destined. Psyche chooses freely what to do given what she knows of instances she’s already interacted with and then when she does decide: that is always what she decides.


I was thinking more about this earlier today. in order to write the next update, I at least have to know what Splendor witnessed. I don’t have to definitely know why Psyche acted (though I should eventually) but I need to decide what’s canon as far as what Splendor knows, in order to write a scene where the event is summarized in their dialogue. I imagine Splendor is apologetic and panicked and not knowing why their mother did this.

Having Splendor and Morpheus not understand Psyche’s motivation would be “giving the problem to the character”. It’s something I heard from a Christopher Vogler lecture, but he attributes the technique to someone else.

So, if I don’t know her motivation, then I make it a conflict of the characters that they don’t understand her motivation (this could also be lampshading in this case) and my bad plotting is somewhat – a little bit – saved by creative problem solving.

The characters can speculate why she did what she did, but they don’t know.