A little while ago I decided I needed a clearer perspective on the villain’s story in Novel Project #3. So I sat down and plotted the story-so-far from his perspective. This proved to be an interesting exercise.
Humiliatingly, I discovered the plot actually didn’t work from his perspective. I had him on one side of the country on one day, then popping up on the other side of the country a few days later with no plausible reason for how he got there, or, worse, why he might have wanted to travel in the first place.
Learning No. 1: plotting your story from alternative viewpoints (even if the story is never told from these viewpoints), is a valuable tool for uncovering plot holes.
Then, I got stuck. I got to a point in the story where I couldn’t work out what should happen next. I knew where I wanted my heroine to end up, but there was a hefty gap between where she was and where she needed to be, and I couldn’t think of anything interesting to fill it. I had that sense of having to write some stuff to fill time before the next chunk of story started, and we all know what a mortal blow that is to plot.
I’d had a sense for a little while that my backstory needed more work, and that some of the plot points so far weren’t quite as convincing as they should be. And what do you know. When I went back and did the work on the backstory that it needed, my story came to life again. By understanding more about what was going on with my villain and a couple of the supporting characters, I understood what else was going on in my story that would galvanise the next chapter of action and excitement. I couldn’t see it before, because I was only looking at it from my heroine’s perspective, and she has no idea about this other stuff that’s going on.
Learning No. 2: Not everything important that is happening in your story is going to directly involve your protagonist, even if it does end up affecting her. Plotting your story from alternative viewpoints will enable you to understand the other currents flowing through your plot, and to know when and how their effects will manifest for your protagonist.