Today I have a great guest post from Terry Compton (a fellow Ink Slinger’s Anthology author – look for that to be released October first).
Or maybe just a slight impediment
That blank computer screen just sits there and stares back at you. Words flit through your brain but not words that will make your next scene come alive. What do you do to break this? I’d like to share a couple of ideas that work for me and then see what others do.
I usually have two sorts of blocks; too many possibilities or the transition from the scene I’ve just finished to the new one in my head. I should tell you that I’m a seat of the pants writer. You know, the one who has an opening scene and a vague idea of where you want the story to go. The characters then drag you around in their big adventure. I don’t know if these techniques will help those who outline their story but anything is worth a shot if you’re not getting words down.
I’d like start off by saying that I learned these tricks at the local authors’ group. I don’t know a dangling participle from a dangling worm. Oh, wait, one of them has to do with fishing. I do know about that, but back to the subject. One of the members of the group has been involved in screen writing and other types of writing for over twenty-five years. He says there is only one cardinal rule in writing: DON’T BORE YOUR READER. Now let’s look at my two problems with that in mind.
How can too many possibilities be a block? Sometimes after your protagonist (or even your antagonist) has finished a task in your latest scene, it will seem like they stand at a crossroads with five or six different paths ahead. Which path do you choose? Should they go to the beautiful beach to improve their sun tan? Maybe press ahead to the next task in their adventure, or do they need to meet the latest heart throb? And so on and so on.
What I’ve learned is to go back to your storyline. Where is your character going? What is their driving goal? Are they too exhausted and beat up to continue? Do they need to go to that beach to recuperate? I’m trying to look through the DBYR filter more. My sub-conscious sometimes quits throwing ideas out and I suddenly realize its saying, “Ho hummm. Borrrring.” Consequency, it’s time to go back and move your character in the most direct route along the storyline to the end goal.
Unless you’re adding a twist. Then maybe they need to go to that beach to get such a bad sunburn that they will be handicapped in the next part of their adventure. Or step on that poisonous jelly fish that will leave them hopping on one leg as they continue.
Go back a few pages and look at where they have been and what they were doing. Come up with something that threatens or impedes them but keep them striving for the goal they need to reach. Look through the DBYR filter and follow what your sub-conscious is saying.
But what about that transition scene between completing the dangerous task and getting to the character’s big wedding two days from now? How do you bridge scenes like that which are so completely different?
Look at your character. What have they been doing? What is their state of mind? Are they totally exhausted and beat six ways from Sunday. Maybe they need the rest but maybe not all they’ll need. Maybe they find out there’s a general transportation strike that will keep them from their destination. How can they make it? Or go back to the jelly fish and sunburn. How will they ever be able to function at the wedding without being able to wear clothes or hopping on one foot?
Are they exuberant and ready to go? Then it’s time to add trials and tribulation to their lives. Readers want to worry about your characters. Can they make the wedding or is the former suiter going to lock the church so your character can’t get in? During the transition, keep your character under duress and stress. If they aren’t, put them there. A reader (or your sub-conscious) worrying about your character won’t get bored.
DBYR can be a great filter for any sort of block. Look at how many obstacles your antagonist, weather, outside forces or even character flaws can put in the way. Make sure the character is trying their best to go in the most direct route to their goal. Unless they need a side trip to add a twist to the plot, then make sure there is a logical cause for these things to happen. If the character is going to the beach after stopping the bank robbery, why? Did their boss send them away? Did they get a reward?
If you’re blocked, think of a list of obstacles. Keep adding to them each day and then put your character through the wringer. Good-bye block, hello happy reader and sub-conscious.
What do you do to overcome your block?
Terry Compton has raced stock cars, rode horses across the Scapegoat Wilderness, fished and hunted most of his adult life while working at several different jobs. He is an Air Force veteran and served in the Air National Guard for several years. He is currently the owner, chief welder and installer for an ornamental iron business where he has made several award winning metal creations and is now turning this creativity to writing.
Terry loves to read science fiction, westerns and mystery stories. Some of his favorite authors are Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, Louie L’Amour, Zane Grey and Anne McCaffery. He is currently learning about ‘indie’ authors who are publishing e-books.
Terry currently lives in Montana with his wife and a dog who thinks she is a short furry people.
Very good advice!
I love this idea of looking at the overall story and where the characters have been and where they need to go. This is definitely a good strategy.
You write just like I do! It’s nice to meet a fellow panster!