Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Being Stuck (Or: In which I show you how crazy I am.)

Last night, I had a conversation with my friend Ali, who's having some problems with being stuck. I decided to do a post on that, today.

Being stuck's not one of those things I'm unfamiliar with. I never outline as deeply as some writers do. I write as I go. I do, of course, have some ideas stored away for future writing. But mainly I just sit down and let the characters tell me what to type. Sometimes I don't like what they're saying, but I totally have permission to change some of the stuff. ;)

But I started thinking, "what did I do when I was stuck?" What did I do when I was stuck? When the characters refused to speak? When the plot refuses to budge?

I feel like, in those situations, the characters have realized how little we know each other. You wouldn't tell your life story to a complete stranger, would you? So get to know them, figure things out.

Now, before someone says, "Brielle, these people are in my head. How do I get to know them. They aren't even real!" I have to say...

Not yet.

Even though you have to decide what kind of car they drive and what color their eyes are and how they like their coffee (or if they like it at all!), you still need to get to know them. It's like learning about people you want to be friends with, except this is probably a bit more on the stalkerish side.

The thing I've learned is that you don't have to use all the info you get. It's just there if you need it. But just because you know that she has a scar on her knee from falling when she played soccer, you don't have to add that to the story. Because, honestly, people don't care. If it's not important to the story, then they won't be interested. No fluff!

So, get together some forms and questionnaires and character profiling sheets, and interview your character. Write everything down in a notebook, so you'll have it later.

After that, maybe you'll understand your characters more. While doing this, I always end up weaving together ideas and writing down things like, "Lost necklace" just so I can do something with that later. With all of this new information, I find it hard not to get to a computer and WRITE. The characters are usually pretty happy to oblige and run their mouths.

If that doesn't work, then I take a few days off to mull over the plot in my head. What's wrong with it? What needs to be changed? What could I make different so that this will be a stronger story?

Usually, after that, I'll find a plot hole, which is fairly important. In my current WIP, I got about seven chapters in before I started over. I had only sent 4 chapters off to my critique partner, and the next three were too horrible to send.

A sign that the story isn't going so well: The first chapter(s) are over a thousand words, and they slowly dwindle. Now, a slight difference in word counts per chapter isn't bad. It's when your word count end up looking like this that it becomes a problem:


So, guys, what do you do when you're stuck? Tell me in the comments!

1 comment:

Emily said...

I listen to music. Music always inspires me when I can't decide for Eneile to escape capture in my story, or not. It's tough, and I still haven't made the decision for the next chapter! *Turns on iPod and head-bangs vigorously.*