Daily Archives: January 16, 2011

The Bane of Every Writer’s Existence . . . and Three Ways to Defeat Him

I have an evil foe . . . his name is Writer’s Block.

Few villains can so brilliantly frustrate, antagonize, and torture the way that Writer's Block can.

It’s happened more times than I care to remember.  I sit down at the computer, expectantly, waiting for the eloquence to pour forth like a cascading waterfall, and . . . nothing.  I stare blankly at the screen, willing my fingers and brain to move.  Still nothing.  I grow frustrated.  I say unkind things to my dogs.  I lament.  Sometimes I stand on my head (as I mentioned in an earlier post on the subject), which occasionally loosens the mental blockage and generates a bit of typing action.  It’s also a good stretching exercise recommended by my chiropractor.  Other times, however, I find myself a mental prisoner of the dreaded Writer’s Block.

In such cases, throwing things seems like a great option, but is, however, usually one which does more harm than good.  Computers and other electronics do not usually respond favorably to such treatment, nor do animals or people.  Swearing is also a poor choice; it is generally the sign of an inferior mind that is incapable of finding more appropriate vocabulary.  So what is one to do?  I have three suggestions, all of which are intended to get some of the creative juices flowing again, after which you can return to what you were trying to work on.

1.  Random Idea Generator 1.0

For this, you’ll need a phone book, a dictionary, and an atlas (a world atlas is best, but smaller ones will still work — in a pinch, you can just use a map, though it won’t be as fun).  First, open the phone book to a random page.  Without looking, plop your pointer finger down on any part of the page.  Whatever name you land nearest is the name of your main character.  Next, do the same with the atlas.  This is where your story will take place.  Finally, do the same exercise with the dictionary, three times.  These three words must feature prominently in your story.  Once you have these words written down, try to build a short story (aim for 1-3 pages) around them.  If you’re too lazy for this form of random story generation, try an online generator (there are hundreds).

2.  Fractured!

Pick a fairytale or well-known children’s story.  Imagine how the story might be different if told from the perspective of a character other than the main character (e.g. the villain, a sidekick, the hero’s mother).  Try to tell this other character’s story.  Is the villain truly evil, or just misunderstood?  Is the hero good, or merely an opportunist?  Was the witch really a threat, or was it all a government conspiracy?  Have fun and don’t be afraid to be silly.  To make this even more of a creative approach, considering illustrating your new story.  If you need some ideas for fracturing fairytales, read some examples done by other people.  Or, watch this one:

3.  Get Chatty

Try talking out loud to your characters (it’s probably a good idea to check first to make certain that you’re alone — non-writers may not understand this approach).  Ask them how they feel about plot details, why they act in certain manners, or what they would like to see happen.  Get inside their heads and answer as they would.  This is similar to the character interview that I have previously suggested, except that it is an entirely oral approach, and should function more like a conversation.  Consider discussing things that are not even part of the story:  ask your characters about politics, religion, pastrami . . . anything at all!  The whole point of this exercise is to get to know your characters better, so that you can write about them.  Plus, feeling silly is a great stress reliever!