We all know that writing is a solitary process, one where a writer stereotypically locks themselves away somewhere and bangs on a typewriter (keyboard) until brilliance comes out. Your story usually is between you and your brain (and your muse, if you go in for such things).
That being said, I think a lot of us yearn from companionship. I think that’s one of the reasons NaNoWriMo has been so successful. We like other writers. We like to talk about our stories. We like to know that other people have had the same problems, and hear what they did to conquer them.
And that’s why, I think, when you have the right audience, talking through your problems can be hugely helpful.
I have a (largely defunct) LiveJournal that I have used over the years to post information about the high fantasy trilogy I have been working on forever. I think only 10 or so other people have had access to it. But even the act of writing information out like someone might read it has help me solve numerous worldbuilding problems, from my magic system, to languages, to number of sentient species. It’s also helped with plot problems, such as the relationship between the main characters and how things had to develop to reach the final showdown with the antagonists.
Of course, the best person to talk to is one that is relatively familiar with your story. These people are the best next to your own brain to understanding what you have and where you need to go, as well as what your end goals are.
So ideally you talk to someone who has read your story, or is at least somewhat familiar with it through small snippets and worldbuilding. Barring that, someone who is familiar with and regularly reads your genre can work as well, because it’s less conventions to have to explain.
Tonight, at my storycraft meeting, I’m running a plot problem clinic which should prove interesting. Everyone’s to bring a problem of some sort, which the rest of us will then try to help them through. However, I don’t believe anyone is familiar with anyone else’s story and don’t necessarily write the same subgenres (my writing group is specifically for scifi/fantasy/horror writers), so it will be interesting to see if this is any help.
But who knows? Maybe getting those other subgenres into the mix will help add unexpected depth to the answers.
Do you have a friend you go to when you have story problems? Is it the same person every time, or do you have a range based on the type of story/type of problem?