What exactly is Writer’s Block? Is it an actual block that prevents ideas… or something else?
I’ve come to believe that the so-called ‘Writer’s Block’ exists in large part because not enough is known about the main or subsidiary characters, the world / setting in which the action takes place, and even at times, the plot itself.
Here are also some tactics I use when this dreaded malady strikes:
1) I interview my main character(s). You’ll be surprised what comes out of your character’s mouth when she [I’ll be using the generic ‘she’ to mean both male and female characters] gets a chance to express her views and finally have a voice.
2) On a similar note, I sometimes have the characters interview each other. Another goldmine of information and backstory.
3) I put the characters in a situation that is completely different from what they are accustomed to. For example, imagine your vampire MC finding herself in prehistoric times, surrounded by any manner of dinosaurs. Or consider your MC from a fantasy world, suddenly finding herself wandering the streets of Boston or Manhattan during rush hour.
What will they think? How will they react? Such a scenario will bring out aspects of your character you never dreamed of and which you can, ostensibly, incorporate into your story.
What if you put your character in danger? How would they respond? Not that this scene will necessarily make it into your manuscript, but it is an additional way I find that adds depth.
4) Another technique I sometimes use is to take a paragraph or chapter and change the tense and voice of the text. For example, if your book is written in past tense, switch to present tense. If written in first person, then change to third person… and vice versa.
Initially Up In The Air was written in third person, past tense. I had submitted the first two chapters at a SCBWI writing conference for a paid critique by Alma Fullerton, author of In the Garage (an excellent read), Walking On Glass, among many others. I don’t think she was impressed; all right, she definitely was not impressed. When she suggested the voice and tense changes, my initial reaction was ‘she’s got to be kidding me.’ I had absolutely NO intention of doing any of that!
Yet several weeks later I tried her suggestion. It was like night and day. By the end of the first page I knew I was on to something. The story flowed and took on a life of its own.
This does not mean to say that such an extraordinary transformation will happen all the time or even most of the time. What is achieved, however, is a change of perspective; a chance to view the story and the characters from a different angle. And that can open up the mind to ideas, and then some…
This is a huge ‘block’ for me. Stress tends to hinder my creativity and adds to the pressure and frustration when no ideas seem to be coming through. Here is what I do to relax: I read a good book.
And when all else fails, I jog or go to the gym, clean the house (and for those of you who know me, this is huge!), anything to keep my mind busy on something else and alleviate the panic of ‘OMG I don’t know what comes next! I’m stuck!’
A surprising thing then happens. When I am no longer stressing about what the next few scenes, ideas start trickling in.
I try to view ‘Writer’s Block’ as a way to dig deeper into the characters as well as the story, by asking questions, and more questions… and more questions.
What do you do when this ‘dreaded malady’ strikes?