“The Hydra Effect”: 3 Ways to Manage Multiple Plot Conflicts

527px-Singer_Sargent,_John_-_Hercules_-_1921
Singer Sargent, John – Hercules – 1921

“When writing, don’t try and figure out every aspect of the story in the beginning. Know where you are, have an idea of where you are going, but for goodness sake, DON’T RUSH AHEAD!”

Sage advice? I’d say so. I’ve had to tell myself this many times before.

Plots are tricky. A good plot will keep the reader engaged. A great plot will keep the writer on the edge of their own seat.

For this reason, it’s important that you take your creative time.

Don’t try to solve every problem or knot that presents itself. You are going to have some questions at the beginning of each story that don’t have immediate answers. This is true of our real lives as well.

When we jump ahead and start trying to break down conflicts that are not presently relevant in our plot line, we end up causing our own “writer’s blocks.”

Not only this but as you answer these plot questions and conflicts, you will find that you have engaged in what I am calling (Insert dramatic, climactic music here,)  the…

“Hydra Effect.”

What is the Hydra Effect? According to mythology, when one head of the Hydra ( a serpentine creature with multiple heads bent on  destruction by its nature) is cut off two more would grow in its place.

As I have found in my own writing, once I solve a problem or answered a question of conflict, several more conflicts spring up alongside several more unanswered questions, each of which holding the potential to make or break my plot altogether.

When we jump ahead and start trying to break down conflicts that are not presently relevant in our plot line, we end up causing our own “writer’s blocks.” We overfill our minds with irrelevant possible outcomes (venomous Hyrda heads) of the story and we get derailed from the main track of the story itself, lost in a fog of confusion.

In other words, we are “borrowing trouble from tomorrow.”

WHAT TO DO, THEN?

1. Get in the habit of remembering the phrase, “Cross each bridge when you get to it.”  Answer those questions and confront those conflicts  in the story once they are at your door and actually demanding answers.

Work on what you can, dedicate your time to the conflicts in your plot that are in front of you at the moment, and as you move forward, fix, and solve problems that are presently ready to be solved and the answers to the questions and problems that are next will come to you.

2. (In the meantime) Do keep the door open to said conflicts and keep an eye on each stewing pot so as not to let them boil over into the story because you left it too unattended.

It’s a balancing act. But you don’t have to stare at the stew, watching it to see when it boils.

3. It’s good to have a plan as to where the story is ‘potentially’ going, but remember, your imaginative piece does have a mind of its own. It will give you the answers when it is time for them to be answered. Trust the flow.

BONUS: Be encouraged on your journey. Take as many breaths and breaks as you need. Knit at a pace that is thrilling to you and not so demanding that you end up feeling rushed, pressured and anxious, drowning yourself with plot conflicts.

Writer's Table

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

*This post was originally created August 11, 2014 and formally titled, “Where you are, Where you are going: Plot Conflict Resolutions.”

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