Rubber Duck Writing

Okay, so in programming, we have this concept of a “rubber duck.” The premise is that when you are stuck while programming — for example, if you can’t figure out a certain kink in an algorithm, or cannot see how a bug is being produced — you should talk it out with someone. Usually, the process of just trying to put the problem into words is enough to give you an insight that would solve the problem. For this reason, many programmers are rumoured to own a rubber duck. Instead of having to bother someone with their problem, they just articulate that problem to the rubber duck, and get instant insight!

I feel like I need a rubber duck right now. But not for programming. For writing my story.

Plot holes have always been my nemesis. Ever since I began writing fanfiction, almost every single thing I’ve written had been riddled with plot holes. I’ve taken to outlining my novels in detail to avoid this, but even in the outline stage, I’m struggling to put pieces together.

For my first original novel, I’m trying to work with the concept of a prophesied hero. I know it’s a bit cliche, but judging that this takes place in a setting inspired by precolonial Philippines, where folklore and legends are riddled with prophesies, it’s to be expected. I’m trying to put a twist to it though, by revealing that there is indeed no prophesied hero. At least not a particular one. And that anyone can take up the mantle of a hero instead of waiting around for someone to claim the title or for someone tell them they happen to be this hero.

That was a major twist by the way. Now you’ve been spoiled for my story. Unless I do a major revamping, you’ve been totally spoiled.

So for the first 1/2 to 2/3 of my story, I have a character named Sano who believes he is the Hero of Lore. There were oracles who foresaw this prophecy and brought him up to be one of the best mages in the archipelago. At the 2/3 point of the story, Anina is supposed to reveal that Sano is not the Hero of Lore after all. I had planned that scene from the very beginning, that point where Anina betrays Sano by revealing to him that his entire life was basically a lie. This scene, this entire revelation is one of the seeds from which my story is born. I really, really want to have a scene like this, because everything that happens afterwards is dependent on this scene. It forces both Sano and Anina’s growth, and reinforces the concept that you don’t really need to wait around for a hero.

But that’s where I’m stuck. I don’t know how it could be possible, within the setup I’ve already established, that Sano can not be the Hero of Lore. Perhaps I was just really good at establishing that part. And Anina, someone who I had planned initially to be a traitor to Sano, had grown in my development stages to be one of his closest friends. I don’t know how in the world she could even manage to betray Sano.

There’s only one way to truly prove you’re the Hero of Lore, and that is to vanquish Lakan Bunawi, the oppressive warlord. You don’t even really have to be the strongest mage or the fiercest warrior. If you manage to poison him from afar, then you’ve fulfilled the prophecy. So really, the only way Anina can be sure that Sano isn’t the Hero of Lore is if he manages to confront Lakan Bunawi, and ends up losing. By losing I mean dying. It’s pretty pointless to reveal to someone they’re not a prophesied hero when they’re already dead.

I’m going wrong somewhere, I know it. But I just don’t know where.

Before, I think I was planning for the HoL to be the most powerful mage. But then I had a secondary character who is technically in possession of the most power, and so I edited the requirements for the HoL. No longer do they need to be the most powerful, they just need to be smart and skilled. I changed it also because of the nature of magic in my universe. Power is fixed at birth, and you sort of grow into it, like your height or your girth. You can’t acquire more than what is allotted to you. This posed the problem that the oracles would have needed to know which baby was the most powerful… and that seemed kind of tedious. Not to mention, it would be so direct as to leave very little ambiguity, which I need to say there really is no Hero of Lore.

In any case, that’s all details at this point. I still don’t know how anyone can refute the fact that Sano isn’t the HoL. Well… unless someone else manages to kill Lakan Bunawi before Sano even gets a chance to. But whether or not it’s Sano who dies or Lakan Bunawi who dies… that still renders the entire story useless!

Goodness, I don’t even know how I could have been planning this story for almost a year now and only realize that I have the biggest plot hole! In my actual premise! A prophesied hero who is not actually the prophesied hero. Seems so simple and cliche. Why did it take me so long to realize that the only way to disprove it is if the hero dies while confronting the villain?

Ugh. This isn’t the first time I’ve overlooked something so big, the hole creeps up into the premise itself and utterly destroys it.


5 thoughts on “Rubber Duck Writing

  1. I’m going to throw out some really off the top ideas that came to mind. Most of them are probably useless at best, but I hope that maybe they can help you at least reframe your problem until you find the solution.

    Is there another character that can reveal this fact to Sano? Thus relieving his best friend?

    Is Sano still going to be the one who defeats Lakan?

    Can someone else make a pretty decent attempt on Lakans life and fail, but then maybe Anina can work the problem through that Sano is not the only one who can be the prophesied HoL? That someone else without the title might be able to succeed? It might be another growth point for both of them to have to talk their way through this problem.

    I’ll be. Ack if I have any more ideas.

    • Aaah, thanks Bookworm for leaving ideas! At this point, I don’t really care much if they might lead to nowhere. I’m just glad to have a few more leads!

      So far, I only have a definite answer for question 2. No, Sano is not going to be the one who defeats Lakan Bunawi. Neither is Anina, actually. (I initially planned for Anina to die a little after she betrays Sano… but I’m a sucker for happy endings, so I doubt I would go through with that haha.)

      As for the other questions, thanks for bringing those up! I haven’t thought about those angles before. They would certainly be good avenues to explore. This is the best thing about having friends you can talk about writing with XD. Sometimes we get so caught up in our plans and the things we’ve thought about for a long time, that we fail to see other paths. I’ll add them to my notebook. =D

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