Switching Tracks

Life is full of unexpected twists. Like that moment when you find out you are expecting, only you and your husband were planning to wait a few years between babies. When an unexpected job offer takes you to another part of the country. When a family illness changes your plans for the future. We all switch tracks in life. Making decisions we didn’t know we’d make because our world has shifted in an unexpected way.

Just like us, characters make decisions that shift the course of the story. They switch tracks and alter their direction. These changes can make for amazing twists and unexpected turns in our novels, if we learn to utilize them to their fullest potential.

What makes a character switch tracks?

*Embarrassment– To avoid embarrassment. We can create these moments to make an unexpected decision make sense.

*Secrets– To keep a secret that they would die to protect. It will give you an opportunity to create unexpected complications in their relationships.

*Promises– To keep a promise. If they have promised never to let the family acreage go to a stranger, they may pack their bags and head home when their parents are no longer able to care for the place.

*Avoiding Trouble– To avoid further conflict or danger. If your character really needs a loan from a bank, but the loan approval officer is their sworn enemy, they may choose to go to great lengths to find another option.

*Bring About Something Good- To bring good to themselves or to others they love. Self-sacrifice is a heroic trait we can utilize when an unexpected opportunity comes up for supporting characters in our novel.

How do we build an unexpected track switch in our novels? 

*Internal Conflict- Use some of the emotional components above like fear of embarrassment, or secrets that they keep from others to build internal conflict that causes them to switch tracks. Like the girl who doesn’t know how to dance may turn down the guy she loves to avoid making a total fool out of herself. Or a different guy asked her and threatened to go live with a secret of hers if she didn’t attend the dance with him.

*External Conflict- Something comes unexpectedly from the peripheral areas of the plot that creates new conflict and makes a character switch tracks. For example, your character has planned the best fund-raising event of the year but there is a bomb threat. Normally, she might close it down. What if the threat came from someone who also held her brother hostage? If she doesn’t go ahead with the event, her brother will die. Now she might do something that no one else sees coming.

Switching tracks creates amazing twists in our novels. What is your favorite surprise, twist or character track switch of all time? 

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

7 thoughts on “Switching Tracks

  1. I guess my favorite twist of all time is in the 6th Sense. I did not see it coming! Great post. Love you photo of RR tracks!

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    Thanks, Pat. Glad you stopped by. I can’t remember Sixth Sense, but I bet it was a whopper of a twist.

  3. Naomi Musch says:

    Switching tracks — what a great analogy! I’m not thinking of a specific book, but I guess I tend toward those external track changers that are brought about by wars or natural disasters. An unexpected death is something too, that I lean toward, that causes the character to make decisions he or she had previously not thought about. Nice blog!

  4. Oooh. Thanks, Michelle! Great post and one I’m so glad I read today, right before starting to write. Gonna go get me one of these!

  5. […] Have A Twist Or Surprise No Matter How Slight On The Alternating 25 Pages. This is something that I choose to […]

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