We all know that certain part of writing, when we have a story in our mind and know where it should go to, how it should look, which parts you want to include and what you want to achieve. And then when you write, you notice that it does not work. The character you started changed so much that you are not happy with them anymore, maybe even realize that the goal you were writing toward to is not the goal your characters want to reach.
Sometimes these things start to block the story and with that also your flow and inspiration. You might even stop to write and not come back for a long while. I do remember a point in my story, when I just did not know how to go on for about a month. I threw things around my head, dismissed everything again, thought of new things. And of course, how things go: I hated them all.
Just then I cut the last written scene out of the story, put it aside and suddenly things did flow again. At a later point I did include the cut scene again. This time it worked so well, that there was not only no blockage, but I had so many ideas on how to go on that I wrote the next 3 chapters in one go.
There are a few things that I have learned during my time writing, that might sound scary at first when you put so much into your story, but can help a lot if you hit a wall. And of course I want to share them with you.
Do not be afraid to…
Delete or change scenes
As I have mentioned before sometimes scenes you had in mind and though were great, might not work. Either they do not work at this moment in the story or they do not work at all. Cut them out! If you are not sure if you can or want to maybe include them later, save them in an extra file to put aside.
Maybe your scene only needs a little bit of a change to work after all. Turn around characters, change dialog, change actions. Try out, shove around, twist it. Your text is your story. There is no ‘This is supposed to happen.’ other than what YOU want.
Kill off or change characters
Your character did not grow into the person you wanted them to be? Maybe one of your characters got boring or they fulfilled their task and now are some background noise that is basically forgotten? You just do not know what to do with them anymore that gives them any sense? Maybe you wrote them in a corner and now they try to dig their claws into the wall, climbing up, but they glide down with a painful grunt, not able to get anywhere.
It can help to change them, their character, their story to bring you new ideas. Maybe add something to their backstory, that helps you to ignite that spark and a purpose for them. But be careful to keep it realistic, do not add something for the sake of adding. And if it does not work out, change it back or keep it if you like it. Sometimes the only thing that helps is to get rid of them. Kill them in a way that adds to your story, make them leave town, flee from the authorities, anything that makes sense. It would not be very satisfying for me as a reader to build up a connection to a character and then have him just stumple and fall down some stairs to break his neck. Also do not mention that they left just in a side note of a conversation. That is useless and frustrating. You might not have ideas for their story anymore, but let them have some pride in how they go.
I can hear ‘But they are important to the story. I cannot get rid of a main character!’. Yes, you can. It is YOUR story, YOUR character. There are plenty of TV-Shows and movies that DO kill off characters or get them out of the way if they got useless or if the writers needed a cliffhanger, or give another character a reason for a big step in their development. And the death of a comrade can kick off a lot of development for others. But as mentioned above, give it purpose.
Give your characters weaknesses
Ever read a book and thought that everyone in that story is so annoyingly perfect? Yeah, nobody wants that. While books are often used to shut out reality and dive into a fantasy world, that does not mean that your characters should not be human. Make them interesting, quirky, give them a character trait that makes them memorable. If they are perceived perfect from other characters, give them some flaws on the inside that they possibly try to hide from others. Give them demons to fight, maybe even literally if it fits your story. But don’t make them the best in everything, the prettiest, the most stable and awesome personalities. That would be quite boring.
Hurt your character
Sometimes it can be good for the story to injure or hurt your character. They are not immune to life. If they run into a bullet to save someone they WILL be hurt. Unless they are Superman of course, but you might not write about Clark Kent here. They can fall into comas, lose a limb, have permanent damage, or even only short time damage, lose their memory or fall into depressions. Try to research how those things work, what you have to watch out for. Research, talk with people, try to keep it realistic and not too much at once. Also again, make sure it is not just for the sake of hurting them, integrate it into the story, keep the flow. Just don’t think you cannot hurt them, just because they are main characters. Who knows, it might even make them more interesting.
Try new things
Ever wanted to bring in something that you think is crazy? Impossible? Do it! It can get boring to read the whole things over and over, to read something that has not been done a hundred times before would be so very refreshing. Not sure if it works? Try it! You have nothing to lose.
Ask friends for ideas
Yes, this is your book, your story, your blog. BUT… sometimes when you run into a wall a fresh perspective and a new brain can work wonders. Tell someone you trust about what is going on, maybe the whole story, maybe just the chapter or one scene, ask them for ideas. What would they do? Paint a picture of the character, ask them to see it through their eyes and what they think should happen, or could happen next. It may happen that they have no idea, or they do have one. Maybe they have many ideas. Maybe you want to use one of them, all of them, or none of them BUT got your own idea while they colored the picture you have drawn. It can happen that one idea sounds so weird that you instinctively think “That’s nuts and does not ever make a way into my stories”, but do not dismiss it that fast. You never know when it might be just what you need.
Only because it is your name on the cover, does not mean that you cannot get a little help from your friends (or even random strangers, you never know).
Put everything aside for a bit
I do not mean give up or trash it all. But take a break. Sometimes we are so in the story and so lost in a labyrinth of possibilities that we do not see anything but the wall. Put it aside, read a book, go take a walk, see a movie, dance, talk with friends, take a bath… do anything BUT thinking about the story. To get some distance can work wonders and refresh your spirits.
There are so many things that you can try, that I cannot write them all down here. But all of those things above have helped me in the last couple of years. Be it for short stories, roleplay evenings or my novel, that I am editing right now.
If you have any more of these tips please feel free to share them in the comments, I would love to hear about them! Who knows maybe someone out there is looking for exactly this tip after ramming their story car into a brick wall 🙂