Leave yourself a trail of bread crumbs

One of the tools I love to use is leaving clues for my characters (and myself). I have no idea where these clues will lead. I just put them in there as they come up and hope they’ll turn into something.

We’ve established I’m more of a “fly be the seat of your pants” writer than a carefully plotted and outlined writer. I do outline, but it’s usually more as I go along and after I’ve established the tone of the story, but these clues come up as I’m writing and I leave them there to flutter in the wind.

Why do i do this?

Well, I like revelations in my stories. I like  mysteries. I like big flapping loose ends that end up tying the whole story together in a surprising way. And the most effective way to do this is to surprise myself.

In my most recent work, a dying mother tells her son “Four five six, you can fix. Make it ten then try again.”

Since she is doped up on morphine and possibly hallucinating, this means very little to her son, Liam. When I wrote it, it meant absolutely nothing to me, in respect to the story. But I kept it in my back pocket, waiting for it to become relevant. I even suggested that it came up again to another character, but did not spell it out.

Then I suddenly needed it. It was a very personal phrase to another character, who was skeptical of the Liam. He dreams about his mother. She repeats the phrase “Four five six, you can fix. Make it ten, then try again.”

So now my character had told me where that trail was leading, but I still didn’t know what it meant. This is where I had to make my writing brain work, concoct a little back story, make this phrase personal enough to drag a stubborn woman up the coast to a young man who she deemed to be delusional.

After I managed this pivotal point  I was equally surprised to see “make it ten then try again” pop up over and over again through out the rest of the book. It flowed naturally. It tied everything to that initial scene where Liam wasn’t just saying goodbye to his mother, but also being handed his destiny.

What if it hadn’t worked out?

Well that’s easy. Cut it in edits.


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