I just finished reading Libba Bray's Going Bovine which is an INCREDIBLE book. I'm a little bummed that I got my copy at the library because this is a book that I will want to reread again and again . . . I'll just have to go and buy it when I get the urge.
One of the things that comes up in Going Bovine is the idea of parallel universes--that there are places where the consequences of different decisions that you could make are being played out. I've been thinking about this as I'm revising--really trying to open up some new avenues and trick-out my plot. I've been going through and asking myself questions like "What if her mother slams on her brakes as she's leaning down in the car to tie her shoe? What if she slammed on her brakes because of a pack of runaway clowns?" Okay, not clowns. "What if it was a group of environmentalist protesters and her mother's car was a Hummer? And, she accidentally hit one of them? What if it was a crazy neighbor running through the neighborhood wearing a batman costume with beer cans tied around his waist and clanking behind him? What would change????"
The movie Sliding Doors explores this idea:
In this movie, the main character makes the subway train on time . . . and then she doesn't. Two different stories are played out based on that one tiny decision.
As writers, we get to actually create parallel universes and CHOOSE which story we want to exploit. It's hard to remember this--especially when you've been working on a manuscript for a long time. We tend to get stuck in the plot as is instead of as what might be.
So have fun out there. Ask yourself some crazy questions. Let your character trip over a fallen street sign, take a left instead of a right, miss her bus, wander onto someone's porch, have lunch with a street musician . . .
And, read Going Bovine. NOW.