Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Rubber Ducky Method Can Help You Solve Plot Problems

We've all had those moments where we're looking at our manuscript, and we know something isn't right. You've been over the timeline, you've checked character motivations, and everything seems like it should fit. But you're still coming up with 2+2 = chair, and that is not a satisfying conclusion at all.

If you find yourself in a tight spot, and you need a little help, it might be time to try out the Rubber Ducky Method.

All right, I'm here. Let's fix the problem!

What The Hell Is The Rubber Ducky Method?

The Rubber Ducky Method, or Rubber Ducking as it's called, is actually something used by computer programmers to fix their code as something of a last resort when they can't find a problem. According to a story found in The Pragmatic Programmer,  there was a computer programmer who carried a little rubber ducky around with him when he was at work. When none of the usual methods of solving the problem worked, he would take that tiny rubber fowl, sit him on the desk facing the screen, and then explain the code to him line-by-line.

The programmer would not skip lines that looked okay, nor would he allow himself to be vague. He would explain every detail to Mr. Quackers, reviewing it with him detail by detail and line by line until they found the problem together.

There you are, you little bastard! Thanks again, Quackers!
In addition to feeling like something a writer trying hard to up their eccentricity score would do, this method works because it forces you out of your own head. Whether you're explaining your story to a rubber duck, your stuffed bear, or to your writing mug, the point is that you have to actually explain what you're doing to this new companion the same way you'd have to explain it to a friend or co-worker. Which is an ideal way of realizing that, no, the explanation for why the protagonist is being double-crossed by the count doesn't actually make sense, since it's a move that doesn't benefit him in any way, and it is the hollow note that's screwing up your manuscript's flow.

This task tends to fall to my squire, when I'm in need of assistance.

If Nothing Else Works, The Absurd Is Worth A Try

Every writer has their methods, and some of those methods are stranger than others. However, if you find yourself staring at your screen, trying to will sensible story structure into place with angry glares and frustrated growling noises, it might be time to get a pocket-sized writing buddy. Someone supportive, and non-judgmental, who only wants to help you figure out why this plot twist toward act three is falling on its face.

What have you got to lose?

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. I hope it works for folks out there, and anyone with stories to share about it should feel free to leave them in the comments. If you'd like to see more of my work, then stop by my Vocal archive. To stay on top of all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support my projects, consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or tossing some change into The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Both options help a lot, and there's a free book in it for you as thanks!

No comments:

Post a Comment