Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Day We Celebrate

The Mendocino Beacon, Mendocino, CA
Kelley House Museum Column
July 4th: The Day We Celebrate
—Dateline: June, 28, 2012

Though the roots are a bit hazy, its obvious Mendocino has celebrated Independence Day in fine style since settlers first established themselves on the coast. WH Kent, an “esteemed Little River pioneer” remembered July 4th festivities in 1853. That’s only three years after the good ship Frolic, en route from China to San Francisco, ran aground off Point Cabrillo and started the whole Mendocino thing. 

You remember the story, right? Local Pomo tribes people looted the Frolic’s cargo, and when bolts of silk and fine chinaware turned up in trade, San Francisco businessman, Henry Meiggs got curious. He sent Jerome Ford to see what could be salvaged from the wreck and Ford took one look at the lush Redwood forests, and reckoned a fine profit could be made supplying San Francisco’s boomtown. The rest, as they say, is history.

Independence Day itself, grew amongst Americans spontaneously. The Declaration of Independence was first read to the public accompanied by the “ringing of bells and band music” in July 1776 in Philadelphia's Independence Square. A year later, Congress adjourned on July 4th and celebrated with bonfires, bells, and firecrackers. Independence Day wasn’t established as a holiday until 1870, but by then towns everywhere marked the day with “processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, military displays, and fireworks.” 

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.… For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” California joined the Union in 1850, and Mendocino folks were proud, thrilled really, to be Americans.

By 1884, Mendocino City called their July 4th festivities, “The Day We Celebrate,” and the tradition of a grand parade down Main Street was securely in place. So too, “oration and appropriate etceteras.” That year, news had come that across the Atlantic in Paris, the completed Statue of Liberty would be formally presented in a July 4th ceremony. In celebration, a young Mendocino “Goddess of Liberty” lead the parade. “A lofty car bore the Goddess of Liberty, supporting the stars and stripes and surrounded by thirty-nine misses representing the States of the Union.”

The day commenced at sunrise with a “national salute.” The “old iron cannon at the Point proudly did service the honor of the day.” According to the Beacon “its deep thunder reverberated with surprising distinctness far up Big River canyon, and another salute was fired at sundown.” 

The Grand Marshal was “in the saddle” by 9am, “getting the different parts of the procession in their places in the column.” Mendocino, the Beacon proclaimed, was “literally alive with stars and stripes.… We think, [we] may safely challenge comparison with any other town of its size in the State in patriotic display of the national colors.” Dr. John Murray, one of Mendocino’s founding fathers, had even “laid in ammunition” and “small artillery fire” echoed throughout the day.

That year, the Blosser Brass Band came all the way from Willits to join the parade. Soldiers marched in uniform. The IOOF and West Coast Encampment were “out in full force wearing the regalia of the order,” and Bertie Stone and Alice Switzer dressed as George and Martha Washington, another Mendocino tradition. The couple took “an airing in their buggy” and “naturally fell in with the procession.”

According to the Beacon, even nature cooperated. “The weather, concerning which there had been much hoping and fearing for many days lest it might take on one of those disagreeable moods not unusual on the coast, was all that could be desired.”

Just a few years later, in 1887, the Ukiah Independent called Mendocino’s celebration of Independence Day “one of the greatest events of the coast.” That year, the Ukiah Silver Band brought marching music to lead the parade. “As early as Friday, the 1st,” the Independent reported, “vehicles of all sorts began to arrive, bringing people from all parts of the county and by Saturday night, the hotels were all full.” 

 “The procession marched through the principal streets and to the picnic grounds, where the usual exercises were gone through with, such as reading the Declaration of Independence, the patriotic poem, the oration, music by the band and choir.” (The etceteras, one assumes.)

Foot races kept the crowds cheering on Main Street all afternoon and greased pig wrestling on the corner of Howard attracted the daring. After sunset, everyone watched a “grand display of fireworks.” And then, at 10pm the annual ball commenced. “It was, no doubt, the largest ball ever given in Mendocino County; there were 125 couples on the floor at one time.” The partygoers danced all night and, according to the Ukiah Independent, the boys from the band were “very anxious” to stay in Mendocino. “We do not know the reason why,” the newspaper mused, “unless they are attracted by the beautiful ladies of that city.” 

As for the Kelley House Museum, they’ve been right in the middle of July 4th celebrations for a very long time, providing festivities and raising their flag. To learn more about the olden days on the coast, visit their archives. And come out this year, enjoy the parade and join in the rich traditions of this day Mendocino loves to celebrate.

Monday, June 18, 2012


The Mendocino Beacon, Mendocino, CA
Kelley House Museum Column
Mendocino City: Carrying Gold
—Dateline: May, 31, 2012
The moon was waning on October 11, 1884, about half-full at the end of a dusty Indian Summer day. It matters, because the Mendocino Beacon reports the Sanderson stage got ambushed at 3 in the morning. The stage had left Cloverdale some six hours earlier, and stopped to change horses in Yorkville and Boonville. Wells Fargo estimates stagecoaches managed between 5 and 12 miles an hour, depending on the terrain. The climb to Yorkville could easily have taken three hours and the descent to Boonville a couple more. Six hours seems fair. According to the Beacon, the coach was three miles out of Boonville when things got out of hand.

Why no one was riding shotgun is hard to say. Generally, when the Express box carried gold and silver, Wells Fargo hired a guard. Perhaps, because a shot-gunner signaled money, they mixed it up sometimes, in hopes of keeping the bandits off-guard. Maybe no one was available that night, or maybe JL Sanderson, who had only opened his Daily Mail & Stage Line in June, didn't know any better.

In any event, the Rev. Drum’s wife, Mary, was riding up top with the driver that night. She and the Reverend, who preached at Mendocino’s Presbyterian Church, had been at a synod in San Francisco. They’d stayed in a fancy hotel, ridden the new fangled cable car, and left San Francisco at 5 in the morning, paying $9.50 each to ferry to Petaluma then ride the train to Cloverdale. Sanderson’s stage was the last leg of a arduous journey.

The coach was filled with locals. Mrs. John Murray had taken her twenty-year old daughter, Susie, to San Francisco, perhaps to buy sundries for her trousseau. The Murrays ran one of the oldest businesses in Mendocino—the pharmacy and general merchandizing store on Main Street. Mrs. Murray had emigrated from County Clare as a child, and still spoke with the lilt of her Irish roots. Her youngest, eight-year-old, Carl, traveled with them and seems to have been high that night on the adrenaline of adventure. Mrs. Klein was aboard too, traveling unaccompanied.

Things got off to a challenging start when the bandits ordered the driver to throw down the Express box. He protested. If he threw the box, his lead horses would bolt, and endanger his passengers who were mostly women and children. Did they really want that on their conscience?

One of the bandits dutifully climbed up top and got the box. The other got Rev. James Drum out of the coach and robbed him of three dollars. Unimpressed, the Reverend mocked the poor fellow. “Should of robbed me on my way to the Synod,” he teased, “before I spent my money.”

The bandits grew increasingly flustered. They didn’t know whether to insist the women disembark. Such a transaction involved physical contact, hands had to help the ladies down. They opted to negotiate through the open stage door, pressing Mrs. Klein to hand over $5, but returning the money when she fretted she needed it to pay for breakfast. They didn’t fare any better with Susie Murray. When they asked her to turn over her riches, she directed them to speak with her mother on the matter.

“Overcome your scruples,” she told her mother. “Give them your purse.”

No fool, Mrs. Murray “bustled about” nervously, trying to find it. “Don’t you have it?” she asked Susie, her voice giving way to that sweet Irish lilt.

“Why no, Mama.” Susie probably sounded flummoxed and afraid. “But do find it and give it to them before they kill us.”

Young Carl, seated near the door, told the Beacon one of the robbers kept losing his bandana. “It kept slipping down his face,” giving Carl a good look. Young Murray would grow up to write for the Beacon. He reported that the bandits started arguing. “They didn’t want to let the women win,” the Beacon explains, “but were a little fainthearted.” Apparently, after considerable discomfort and confusion, the bandits cut their losses and ordered Rev. Drum back onto the stage. They secured all of three dollars from those sharp-witted Mendocino pioneers.

I write fiction, historical fiction, and there’s an advantage to that. As author, I can bend the facts to fit my fancy. I say this, because piecing together Mendocino’s stagecoach history invites speculation. The “facts” are like dots on a big blank page. My job is to draw the lines between them as best I can—without changing history. It’s a delicate balance, a challenge to be sure; but the archives at the Kelley House Museum are rich with resources that make the venture both possible and fascinating. Stop by sometime if you want to research a history mystery, or just browse through fascinating artifacts and photos.


The Mendocino Beacon, Mendocino, CA
Kelley House Museum Column
Mendocino City: The Best Stagecoach Town in California
—Dateline: published April, 26, 2012 by Molly Dwyer

On a damp February day in 1886, an Allman stagecoach made its way from Ukiah to Mendocino. It followed the High Gap route that wound past Orr Springs and the headwaters of Big River. When George Allman drew his team to a halt, he wasn’t that far from the infamous Robber’s Roost, where the likes of Black Bart often hid. But the brake-beam had been giving him trouble and he wanted to inspect it before heading down the steep, narrow grade in front of him.

Allman owned the stage, and made his living hauling passengers, mail, and money from Cloverdale and Ukiah to the bustling metropolis of Mendocino City (as they called it in those days). Mendocino City had a reputation for being the “best stage town” in California. It was home to seven hotels, two general stores, a butcher shop, a livery, a pharmacy, several saloons, two banks, and a number of Chinese washhouses. It was a commercial center, fed by a booming lumber industry. Coaches arrived daily.

Silver passed as legal tender in Mendocino, but the locals preferred gold. Twenty-dollar gold pieces were known as Big River Bits, and paper money, which almost no one would accept, they called shinplaster.

Coyotes wreaked havoc among the sheep herds in the area, and mountain lions and 500-pound brown bears were not uncommon. On occasion, valuable cows even made news in the Mendocino Beacon by falling off ocean-side cliffs.    

The sparsely worded Beacon story about Allman doesn't say if he felt misgivings as he passed the reins to the fellow who sat up top the stage with him that day—one of the five passengers aboard. What it does report, is that the horses “became frightened” and threw Allman to the ground as they bolted down a “steep hill.” The runaway team stopped only after the stage overturned against a bank. Allman was “considerably bruised” in the incident, and two of his passengers “seriously hurt.” 

George Allman was a businessman, heavily invested in his stage company. A risky undertaking: he’d paid somewhere between $1000 and $1500 (about $30,000 in today’s currency) for each of his coaches. Harnesses cost another $100 or more, and it took about 55 horses to run his 12-trip per week operation. He had to keep his animals in hay and corn. He had to pay drivers and a stable crew. The leftovers he spent on advertising.

Like his competitors, Allman depended on his contract with Wells Fargo to say afloat. A good mail contract could buy him four stagecoaches.

Allman’s stagecoach could carry 12 passengers when two rode up top, and the journey was hardly a pleasant one. They faced ceaseless rocking (it was reportedly a bit like being at sea), and sat in close, crowded quarters, subject to bad weather, mud slides, downed trees and other delays. They had to ford rivers and streams, and stop to open dozens of gates.

Profits depended on weather, road conditions, animal health, driver health, accidents, and hold-ups. Drivers needed to be experienced. When they weren’t fighting the weather, the road, or runaway horses, they had to be on the lookout for bandits.

Allman, like any good driver, knew all the latest gossip and the news from San Francisco. He dropped off packages and delivered messages to the homesteads along the way. He had hoped to make it as far as Comptche the day his coach overturned, because there was a blacksmith there who had the tools to fix the brake beam.

The Beacon doesn’t report how long it took—in a day without cell phones, Triple A, or ambulances—for George Allman to get back on the road. In one story, recounting a similar accident a few years later, the mail from Ukiah didn’t arrive until well after 2 am the following day when an “accident befell the stage” only a mile from its destination.

Piecing together Mendocino history is a bit like sewing a patchwork quilt, but for anyone who wants to learn more about the olden days on the coast, the archives at the Kelley House Museum are brimming with fascinating blocks of colorful and quirky detail.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm Back

Now there's a concept. I've decided to write on my blog again. In fact, I'm trying to get my online "Brand" happening. Yes, it's sad but true, I'm back to marketing my self. Well, maybe it's not so sad, really, the reason I'm back to it, is I've finished my second novel. After three years of work, The Appassionata is done! (Definitely worth an exclamation mark.) So, following the advice of our brave new world, I'm now on Twitter (mollydwyer_CA) and Facebook and SmashWords and Amazon Central.

The Appassionata is set in Hugo’s Paris. Think narrow streets clogged with carriages and cafes overflowing with artists and Bohemians. The literati of Paris, names and faces we recognize for their contribution to culture. This is a time of political unrest and Revolution. Not The Revolution, but the upheaval that followed, the barricades as France fought its way to democracy. This is the birth of Romanticism as seen through the eyes of three women:

The first, composer, Jeanne-Louise Farrenc whose music is being rediscovered. She wrote symphony music at a time when it was considered improper, impolite, impolitic, indeed impossible for women to do so. Alexandrine Caruel was incarcerated by her husband after giving birth to the illegitimate son of one of France’s most iconic painters. Her child was taken from her. Her’s is a story of spiritual quest.

The notorious Marie-Anne Lenormand, the Sibyl of Saint Germaine. She was infamous for her ability to see the future and read cards for the likes of Robes Pierre, Josephine and Napoleon, Bonaparte. She wrote fourteen books in her lifetime and is our storyteller and weaves the novel together. The Appassionata is epic; it explores artistic genius, and particularly the struggle of women who seek to embrace that genius within themselves.
I'm about to turn Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein into an electronic book. I'll be announcing the launch in the next week, and well, I'm on the prowl.

I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference this last weekend and it got me jazzed. My manuscript was a finalist in the Adult Fiction Category. I had agents and editors expressing interest... things are moving. I have two appearances coming up, at Gallery Books in Mendocino at the end of March—Sunday the 27th. It's Community Day at the bookstore, celebrating local authors. And I'll be at the Ukiah Literary Festival, at Mendocino College on April 30th.

Stay Tuned. Who knows, I might even Tweet soon. (I've already got 2—count 'em 2 followers).

Did I say I'm teaching at Mendocino College now? Critical Thinking. I enjoy it immensely. I've also, believe it or not, started working on a new (my third) novel. Something entirely different.  I'll say more about that in the near future too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Upcoming Events & Other Good News

Good News Update: I just got hired by Mendocino College to teach in their English department. They want me to teach Critical Thinking. I'm very pleased. I also have a couple of public appearances happening in the next month and I'm continuing to teach my creative writing and critique groups. I'd like to draw them to your attention in the hopes that you can make one or another.

On Saturday, August 21st at 7pm, I'm reading with three other members of the writing group I've been part of for the past two and a half years. We call ourselves, The Usual Suspects. We're reading as part of Mendocino Stories, 7pm at the Mendocino Hotel. I'll be reading an excerpt from The Appassionata. I'm really hoping we'll have an audience, so please, if you can, come out and support us. Thanks.

Starting Tuesday, August 26th, I'm beginning a third round of Creative Writing and Critique. The groups meet either Tuesday or Thursday evening, 6-9pm and cost $50 for writing club members, $75 for the general public. The groups are open to all levels, all genres. I keep them small in order to make sure we can really spend time on each person's writing. It's been very successful thus far. The StoryStalkers are members of the critique group, and although I haven't managed to entice much blogging yet, I'm still hopeful that over time everyone in the group will begin to post thoughts and even writing on the StoryStalker blog.

On Tuesday, September 7th at 7 pm, I'll be at Book Passages in Corte Madera. I'll be speaking about Synchronicity and StoryStalking. Please spread the word and if you live in the Bay Area, please mark your calendar.  I've been invited by Left Coast Writers, a Bay Area writing community.

So. Hope to see you one place or another.
Cross-posted at Paris On My Mind

Friday, July 30, 2010

Setting the Scene

What is a scene? In short, it's that place in the narrative where something actually happens. A scene is a little story, in and of itself, with a beginning, a middle, and an end—an event that occupies time and space. A scene is sharply focused and generally held together by a single idea, a single driving force.

Scenes are those places in your narrative where your storytelling slows down and pulls in for a front row seat on some action that’s unfolding. It's the backbone of any good novel and it seems to me that without scene, it’s almost impossible to actually tell a story. Even writers like Joyce and Woolf create scenes. I write scene by scene. It’s been my instinctive way of telling a story, and until I learned to write in scenes, I couldn't figure out how to construct a novel. Good scenes are almost always built around dialogue.

According to Sandra Scofield's The Scene Book, scenes are made up of four basic elements: 1) Events or Emotions; 2) Structure (beginning, middle and end); 3) Function and 4) Pulse. Events and/or emotions seem pretty obvious. And, to be honest, I’m skeptical about getting overly involved in structure. I think in terms of beginning, middle and end, but beyond that, I find it more valuable to let a scene evolve organically. You might see a more complex structure, with beats and crescendos, in the final analysis, but I think it’s dangerous to write to it, kind of like getting stuck in a five-paragraph essay for school.

Let's focus on Scoflield's Function and Pulse. Function is the reason for a particular scene, its purpose in the narrative; what the scene accomplishes in being a scene. Pulse is its sine qua non, the "condition without which there would be nothing." Scofield calls Pulse "the vibrancy that makes the scene matter," and says it's an emotional component.

She mentions a scene from E.M. Forster’s Room With a View that I'd like to expand upon.

For those of you who don't remember this turn of the century British tale, Lucy is a prim, but curious young woman who travels from England to Italy under the watchful eye of a chaperon, only to meets George a melancholy, young Brit who generally fails to obey the unwritten rules of society. His rebellion both fascinates and repels Lucy.

Forster brings these two potential lovers together in a piazza. They barely know each other and arrive separately only to witness a knifing that kills a man. Lucy is faint and George rescues her. She dropped some photographs in the turmoil and asks George to fetch them. He insists on walking her back to the pension where they're staying. The knifing creates the logic of their encounter. Indeed, its “function” is to justify their sudden intimacy, which arises from their mutual emotional turmoil; they’ve just witnessed violence and turn to one another for familiarity and comfort. Social expectations don't matter, life does.

What happens is simple: they walk and they talk, stopping on a bridge when they reach the Arno. Right before they stop, we see George toss Lucy’s photographs into the river, and like Lucy, we're shocked. Why would he do that after she asked him to get them? Could he be such a bad guy? Lucy starts to get angry until George explains. It turns out he tossed them away because they were covered with blood.

The scene introduces George and Lucy in all their innocence and complexity. It is the beginning of their intimacy, the bonding that brings them into relationship with one another. The emotional thread weaving through the scene is what Scofield calls Pulse. Essentially, the content that defines the Purpose. In other words, the emotions that fly in the scene over the photos, over the stabbing, over being alone together without a chaperon, even the fact that they are in Italy—all this defines the scene, without it, the scene would have no reason to exist. One could say, the Pulse of the scene is in their sexual attraction, but it's only through the specific events that we see their attraction as real. Lucy and George have shared something—their attraction deepens with mutual experience.

Now, we're looking at the scene after the fact, studying it after it's been written. If we were to sit down to write it, we might think: "Okay, I need a sexy scene to bring Lucy and George together." The danger, of course, is falling into some he's-handsome-she's-beautiful generic cliché—genre romance.

Forster avoids this by taking advantage of Italy. He uses its rawness, the way it's not the genteel life of English aristocracy that Lucy and George know. Italy is disconcerting because it's foreign. The language is different, the cultural norms confusing. Forster walks Lucy into this otherness, and shows it to us through a scene—taking us right to a stabbing. We see a curious, naive girl who ran off on her own to have a taste of "quaint and charming" Italy. Boom—all of a sudden it's shocking and frightening Italy. Along comes George who doesn't quite know how to act, but he's been waiting for an opening. The stabbing gives them a reason to cut to the chase, so to speak, and get real with one another. A lot happens. They fall in love. Bottom line: Function and Pulse work together in a scene, and keeping them in mind can help you shape it clearly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

StoryStalking: Thickening the Plot

Plot: the events that move a story toward some particular effect

I’ve been preoccupied with understanding plot lately, and what I mean by that is the storytelling element of my writing. I’m convinced that writing a good novel requires two separate, albeit interrelated, skills. You have to be able to write a good sentence, but you also have to be able to spin a good yarn, to tell a story and tell it well.

There's an old axiom that says, writing "the king died and then the queen died," does not a plot make, but writing, "the king died and then the queen died of grief," does. 

Like journalism, it's the who, what, when, where and why that matters, and the how, in fact the how might be the kicker. How did the king die? How is it grief killed the queen? And do I, your reader, believe you?  If I stop and say, "Wait a minute, how can that be?" —then Houston, we have a problem.

Implausible? Impossible? Inconsistent?

From my teenager years, I wanted to write a novel. My biggest problem was I didn’t know what to write about… And then, to my shock, when I discovered something to write about, I still couldn’t figure out how to frame it, how to shape it into a good story.

So, here's the point: when a writer sees a still life, instead of studying how it looks, they're thinking about what it means: "Hmmm, snake… hmmm, apple…  hmmmm, books… how do these things fit together?" Off the top of my head, I say, let's start with Eve and idea of Eden. Let's talk about the danger of biting into that apple, of being beguiled by that snake. That's one way to make meaning out the image. And what about the books? Well, it could be religion, or could be the woman is an author...

So tell me the story about this still life. When is this? Where is this? Who smokes those pipes? Who drinks from that silver goblet? Who set the wine carafe on the table? How did it get there? And why was it left there? What happened before, during and after this meal? Was it a meal?

It sounds simplistic to say that in order to keep the plot moving forward, there has to be something core to resolve, but that is the bottom line. There has to be something that the reader and the characters can actually become involved in caring about. That's why if the king and queen simply die, we don't really care, but if the queen dies of grief, we might. We might want to know how that came to happen, what that grief is about. We smell a love story, and truth is, most stories are about finding love or staying alive—or something of that magnitude.

Still, the overarching story will fall flat unless it is refined into something much more specific. And it's trouble that will make it interesting. The love story in The Appassionata, the novel I’m writing,  is essentially over in the ordinary sense of the word early on because one of the characters involved is dead—but then it takes a turn, like Heathcliff and Kathy. This is interesting to me because a few years ago I was in a workshop where we were asked to name of the book we most wished we had written and without hesitation, I said Wuthering Heights. I guess The Appassionata is my Wuthering Heights.

One of elements that drives my story forward is the question of whether the dead man’s letter to his lover will be delivered into her hands, a rather simple thing, but surrounded in complexity.

This is the story between Géricault and Alexandra. Their affair was illicit (she was married to another man), their love insatiable and unresolved. They were forced apart. Alexandra was incarcerated by her husband, an action the Napoleonic Code allowed. Alexandra was guarded, her mail not just read, but controlled. Getting the letter to her takes stealth and will, and before it's ever delivered Géricault dies.

The letter is in the hands of composer, Louise Farrenc. She is not unsympathetic, but she doesn’t feel any particular drive to deliver the letter, either. She has fears and obligations that keep her from taking action. She doesn’t really know the lover's story, feels no particular sympathy. As the reader learns Alexandra and Géricault’s story, it becomes increasingly clear to them that the letter must be delivered. The tension builds.

The most interesting thing for me has been finding the logic of it… I started by closing down all obvious avenues for delivering the letter. Alexandra is locked up. No one connected to Géricault, indeed no one who might be sympathetic, is allowed access to her. Her husband wants to isolate her from all possible contact and knowledge of her lover, wants to make sure she knows absolutely nothing.

Plot is an architectural undertaking. If you’ve seen the film, Inception, you’ll remember that one of the pieces the dream team had to put into place was the maze that underpinned the "scenes" in the dream. (You'll also remember that Ariadne was the maze-builder. I liked that synchronicity.) The dream team then had to find their way through the maze in order to accomplish their goals. The better the maze, if I remember rightly, the more time they had. The maze wasn't apparent, it was beneath the surface. That's important.

Shaping a good plot is similar. The trick is to design a clever maze and watch your characters find their way through it. I walked in one of those garden mazes in France, built with hedges you can’t quite see over—at least if you're short like me. I was surprised by the dead ends. It looked like it would be a snap to walk it, but in fact it not only wasn't a snap, there weren't any clues, really to make it easier. It felt like luck played a role because you could make the same mistake over and over without knowing it. It seemed there was no way to judge whether you were making the same mistake a second time.

A good plot structure is the same, I think, full of tricky dead ends, places where you, the author, have to back up and try another approach. Rule of thumb: if the maze is too simple, your plot will be too. What I'm saying is that as a writer, the best possible outcome is to get baffled by you own story now and then, by how to get from Point A to Point B, because life is that way. When a good plot thickens well, it becomes an imbroglio—an intricate and perplexing state of affairs that's in need of resolution. You don't want the resolution of your story to be predictable, you want it to be intriguing.