Has this ever happened in your story:
Your character is on a quest to find a missing watch. He spent the last three scenes retracing steps, questioning bystanders and searching high and low. Then he finds himself at home, trying to piece together the clues, when all of a sudden in walks his sister’s best friend’s mom. She’s holding a clue in her hand that will solve everything. She gives it to the him.
Or what about this…
Your Protagonist is chasing her lover to the airport. He’s about to get on a plane and leave forever. She gets to the airport, and what do you know, they just happen to be giving away free tickets. She grabs herself a ticket, the security guard upgrades her to first class so she can get through security faster, and she catches her lover before his plane leaves.
This is a common thing I see in stories all the time.
I call it the “Convenience Factor,” and it’s a big no-no. As one of my clients says, it’s “lazy storytelling.”
What he means by that is, rather than optimizing the story in a way that moves it forward and ties into the plot, the writer uses convenience methods to make things happen: adding a random character in to deliver important information, dropping things in your Protagonist’s lap and not actually forcing him to do any work.
Rather than convenience, spend time planning and developing your story, that way you know exactly what has to happen in the story, and how your Protagonist will be receiving the important information he needs in order to move forward and become the hero. Then you won’t have to do any convenience adding, just to fill space or try to explain something that doesn’t really fit in the story.
Whenever I see Convenience Factor in a manuscript, nine times out of 10 I know the writer did very little, if any, planning before writing the draft. And that’s a huge problem.
Because when you don’t take the time to plan and develop your story—ask questions and consider all possibilities for the direction the story could go in—you’re selling your story short. You’re stopping it from really blossoming into the story it could be.
Convenience Factor is a side effect of pantsing your story instead of planning it out. When you don’t plan, you have no idea what needs to happen to move the story forward. And that’s when you reach for convenience items, like random characters, all-too-coincidental story lines, etc.
Don’t do it.
Don’t waste your time writing a draft like that, a draft full of convenience. Readers don’t want that.
What readers want is a story. A vicarious experience for them to go on with your Protagonist.
They want a Protagonist who’s a bit of a mess, but has the qualities of someone who could be really kick-ass. They want to see things happen to this Protagonist–bad things–in order to find out what he’s made of. And then they want a satisfying ending that resolves everything and has the Protagonist really stepping up and earning his hero title.
Anything less than that isn’t worth their time.
But you can’t create a story like that–a story of that caliber–without doing some developing and planning ahead of time. (Well, you can always write multiple drafts, but you’ll just end up frustrated.)
Do yourself a favor: Give up the Convenience Factor, plan and develop your story, and write a damn good first draft.
Helping emerging novelists write damn good first drafts—that’s what I do. I teach story planning and development, which means creating your Concept and Premise, figuring out the beginning, middle and end of your story, your structure and all of the scenes, before you write a single word.
This ensures a better, stronger first draft every time.