I’m at a crossroads in my novel. I’m stuck. I know what happens in the end, but I don’t know how to get there. I’m in no man’s land, the doldrums. You guessed it. The middle of the book.

So I did what I always do when I get stuck. I called my brother. Case has an uncanny knack for diagnosing and treating plot problems. This may have something to do with the fact that he has not stopped reading since the age of three. Or maybe it’s because he’s a doctoral student in English at Purdue. Or maybe, for whatever reason, God saw fit to gift him with the creativity I needed in my career as a writer.

Whatever the reason, my brother is my favorite plot doctor.

And this time was no exception. He had some fascinating suggestions, helpful advice, and undiscovered tidbits relevant to my story. Whenever I’ve talked to him before, I’ve found my mind expanding with ideas sparked by our discussion.

But this time, my brain refused to stretch. We talked about my basic problem.

Me: “I’m stuck in the middle of the book. I need for something bad to happen.”

Him: “Can you give me just a little more information than that?”

Me: “I need for my heroine to be proactive.”

Him: “Riiiiiight.”

We went on to discuss the particulars, and then Case suggested something called The Bottle.

“Huh?” I said.

He sighed. “You know, it’s a classic literary trope. You take your character or characters, isolate them, attack them, and make them work out their issues, solve the problem, face their fears.”

“Oh, you mean like in scary movies?”

*suppressed groan*

We talked a little longer, agreed to think about my plot problems, and touch base again should brilliance strike one of us. Statistically, it should be my turn since the lightning of superior intellect has clearly already zapped my brother.

Since then I’ve been thinking about The Bottle, and I’ve decided that the metaphor applies to me, the author. My book and I are stuck together, and my choices are to get productive, solve my plot issue, and crawl on toward the end of the book. Or, wallow in my glass prison, able to see the light outside, but unwilling to do the work that will get me there.

So here goes. I’m gonna get out of this bottle.

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