Writer's Block: Listing the Possibilities

So you've had a nice pleasant run of easy words. You've managed to make it all the way to that event you've been so excited to write, and you've managed to write yourself all the way through it. And...

Now you're blocked. You know where you want your characters to end up (if you're an outliner). But how do they get there? They can't just walk and talk, can they? Doesn't something more interesting need to happen?

Well, not necessarily.

But if you can get something in there, and make it work well, you've just successfully held a reader's interest for longer.

So: Your characters have just left a village. How do you come up with what happens next, in all that space before the next village is reached?

The easiest option: SKIP IT.
To do so, you can follow these steps.
1. Write in a chapter break or a scene break.
2. Write some narrative summary, summarising the decidedly bland events of the journey.
3. Continue from the arrival of the characters, or the next significant scene.

Sometimes, the easiest option is the best option. If nothing happens that develops the plot, characters or their backstories, consider skipping it and summarising the journey instead.

However, we should not always take the easiest option, otherwise the pacing becomes predictable and bland.

We want to come up with an event that somehow contributes to plot, character development or character backstory.

Now, the idea with the following technique is to write out everything that comes to mind, even the most ridiculous ideas. Once those silly ideas are written down, it frees your mind and the better ideas come to surface.

Here is exactly how I would do it, listing all the possible events that could occur:

- They find a cave that Eoin has heard stories about and they decide to explore it.
- Faine is killed by a snake.
- Saera stabs Faine in the back unexpectedly. She says he was planning to kill them and gives Eoin proof.
- They find a man who has been poisoned.
- A snake attacks and Faine slices it in half.
- A snake attacks and Saera slices it in half.

After having written down all those options, I would choose the last one, as it would contribute well to Saera's character development. 

Since Eoin has been very protective of Saera in the story so far, the fact that she steps up and kills it shows that she is becoming more assertive and tells the reader that she really doesn't need to be looked after. Now Eoin needs to focus on looking after himself.

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Lancer said...

Hey Ryan. Great post!

After thinking about it, I think I often succumb to the "easiest option," as you put it. I am a planner (pantsing just isn't my thing!), so I always have mental story milestones that need to be met. Consequently, most of my plotting is, "What is a logical way to get from point A to point B?"

But I really like your alternative. "What are all the possibilities that could happen right now?" The added unpredictability is definitely great to have.

I'll be doing this for my next story!

Ryan Sullivan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Lancer. I'm an outliner, too. If you're interested in seeing how I go about outlining, you can have a look at this post of mine: http://thedarkcornerofthemind.blogspot.com/2010/09/outlining-my-three-outlines.html

See you around.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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