Recently, I was talking a scene out with my coach. The pieces were all known, but the scene wasn’t quite working. The events of the scene weren’t changing my character internally like we wanted.

The climax of the scene was the trouble area, more specifically my character’s last meaningful decision. In the scene, two ten-old-years were at cross purposes about what to play. One character wanted to play baseball outside, while the other wanted to play indoors with G.I. Joes and the like.

I knew at the end of the scene my protagonist would choose to give up his desires and would choose to choke down what he wants to do, in order to fit in with his friend. (This was the end result we were looking for: a character begins his tragic journey of giving up the feeling of belonging for the feeling of fitting in.)

But it wasn’t clicking with the rest of the pieces in the scene. My coach said, “Sometimes, it’s best to just flip it.” She asked, what if instead it’s the protagonist who suggests to go play baseball outside, out of wanting to reconnect with his friend (even though he rather not play baseball). So he says, “Let’s forget this and go outside to play catch.” And now, his friend catches him off guard, by jumping all over that idea, and says, “Yes, I’m so happy you were thinking the same thing. These games are for babies. I’ll grab my glove.”

That shoves a needle into my character’s heart because he loved those games, and now, he’s forced to hide that joy. Now he wouldn’t dare play something that his best friend thinks is childish. So he suppresses to fit in. And that suppression grows, ripples, and evolves throughout his life, and we have a story.

That takes decades of mastering storytelling. In the meantime, perhaps this post will serve as a reminder, so next time I’m stuck, I can hack my way to the answer.