Remember when we were kids and those sketchy guys would hang out at the playground and offer us shrooms in little baggies for free? Remember when they would push their stuff to us through the chain link fence with their smudged fingers and how cool our sand castles got after we ate some of it?
The goal of the drug dealer was to turn these little appetizers into big addictions. They believed that a small drug problem would grow into a bigger drug problem and that the bigger drug problem would control our lives and make them rich.
Well, life doesn't always work out that smoothly, does it? We would grow up to create our own problems. We'd let them diverge and overlap. And rarely would rehab fix everything.
I realized today that I was viewing my protagonist's life trajectory as simplistically as a drug dealer. I was mapping out her journey as an escalation of a single problem--maybe a misunderstanding of love; honestly, I hadn't quite decided--instead of a conglomeration of mismatched problems and partial solutions. (For the B-meister, I think this was the sort of simplifying that I was warned by you to avoid.)
To put it another way, I saw Diana as having a problem, and this problem could be represented by a 1 in the beginning of the story, and maybe a 2 at the end of the first quarter, and a 3 at the end of the first half. By the end of this story, Diana's problem would be a 6, and her solution would have to be something that was -6 to take away the problem.
But now I'm seeing Diana as someone who has a set of incompatible life experiences that can't really be added together. It's apples and oranges. She has to handle each one on its own terms, and the ending will have to be a best attempt at reaching multiple good-enough solutions at once in a constrained amount of time, like the way the drug addict has to deal with his own unemployment and lack of car and sock-eating dog in the same week that he has to raise $5,000 to pay the dealer before that dealer cuts him from ear to ear. (I know, this drug metaphor is really convincing, isn't it?)
What's Peanut eating? Nothing. He had to fast for his dental cleaning.