by Alison Janssen
Have you written yourself into a cramped little corner? Are you around page 120 in your manuscript, and you've set up your world, set up your conflict, set up your character for adventure ... and yet somehow you feel like you've set yourself into a box, and you can't figure out where to go from here?
Somebody once said (I think I heard it from Lee Child, maybe?) that the act of writing is starting with every possible outcome and slowly eliminating possiblities until there's only one ending. (Whoever said it said it more eloquently than that, but I'm still on coffee number one over here.)
It can feel really daunting to eliminate possible outcomes. The box is closing in on you, oh no!
But think of it this way: Once you've set up a small playing field, you can focus on your footwork. Make the box work for you, not against you. Each choice you made in designing the box was deliberate, right? So get comfortable inside it. You made it, it's a good box! The walls are there to embrace your story, not forcefully contain it. Don't resent the box -- that's a surefire recipe for a deus ex machina ending. (GAH I'M IN A TINY BOX! I HATE IT! Oh wait, I know, I'll just pop the top open and send a golden chariot to go get Medea. Done and done!)
The resolution to your story HAS to come from inside the box you've created, otherwise it'll feel like you cheated. Trust in your box -- it holds everything you need.
And if you need some inspiration, check out what these kids were able to accomplish by working within their own box.