So the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? This applies to writing. If you have your characters in a (physical, emotional, existential) place and you need to get them to another place, you should just… do it, right? WRONG!
The shortest distance, yes… but rarely the most interesting. The interesting part of the journey is the problems and solutions thereof. Say you’re writing a story which takes place between multiple countries. There’s a big push to get from point A to point B, but what if your protagonist doesn’t have a passport? I mean that literally, not metaphorically. It was a device I used not too long ago in my current WIP (Bill’s book #2).
It would have been easy to have all of my characters hop on a private jet to get from D.C. to Italy. I could have skated right to the shenanigans they get up to in Europe. Or…
Elizabeth has a ‘thing’ about traveling outside the country and has never gotten a passport. Well, now, that’s a whole bucket of problems I need to work through! There’s getting her picture taken when she doesn’t look her best, cutting through the red tape of getting travel papers that fast, and the imminent danger of the plot bearing down on them.
And I’ll tell you what, it made the story better. It’s structurally sound to have this obstacle at this point in the tale, better for character development for her to be forced into close quarters with several unknown quantities, and a call back to the small-town Americana of book #1.
The next time you’re scooting along in a story and you’re about to write ‘one thing led to another,’ – you might just consider throwing in a passport problem of your own.