Since I did my big outline revision several weeks ago, I’ve spent most of my time since then filling in the holes the revision created. Part of why I did that is because of that whole insistance my brain has on doing things chronologically. But part of it was that I felt very out of touch with my heroine Marley and how she would react to the scene where I left off. Every time I sat down to write, I’d open up that scene, read through it, and go work on something else. I’ve just been stuck.
There are a lot of theories out there about writer’s block. Some say it doesn’t exist. Some say you just have to bull through it and write something. I’m of the school of thought that very often writer’s block is your story telling you that you’re going in the wrong direction. Very often the solution to writer’s block for me is to go back to the last point in the story that worked and axe everything after that. I hadn’t actually sat down to actively do that with this scene yet, but as I was laying in bed last night, staring at the ceiling (my late afternoon nap Sunday and late night out Saturday screwed my body clock), I was mulling this scene over. And I finally figured out what was wrong.
How it is currently written, Marley is behaving sort of meek, tired, and overwhelmed by everything while Conall’s temper and control is fraying and he’s getting into it with his second in command. First, Marley is not a doormat. Yeah, she’s tired and has been pretty overwhelmed (finding out your lover is a wolf-shifter and most of his world is out to kill you is a pretty big downer), but she’s sure as hell not a doormat. Add to that the fact that Conall is not calm. His emotions totally feed hers, so her temper’s likely to be pretty short as well. As soon as I figured that out, I realized that given some of what Ewan (the second) says, she’s totally going to get into it with him.
Not that I’ve had time to jot more than 100 words of the new version of the scene. I’ve been too busy being migrated to the corporate version of Gmail at work (Glory Halleluia! No more messages “You have exceeded your 50 MB mailbox limit.” BITE ME!) and getting my contacts moved, my new notifier installed, and wrestling with how the heck to make the calendar linked to that account (which is not on the google main server) show up in any kind of desktop application (all of the ones that go with google desktop point to the main google server). I still haven’t figured that out. If you happen to know, please let me know.
I find that, when a scene or dialogue is not working smoothly, the number one question I can ask myself is, “Knowing what I know about this character (their personality), how would a person like that probably respond?” That helps me focus in on the emotional response of my character and figure out how that emotion would be show (either through actions or words), thus allowing the movement of action and/or dialogue to flow again.
If that doesn’t work, I go back to “What is the purpose of this scene? What am I trying to convey about the character?” That one helps too, since it often reveals a lack of clear purpose, helping me firm it before I try to go on (and prevent creating a purely meaningless scene, which is a bad, bad thing!).
Yeah I have a little scene questionnaire I fill out for each scene that usually gives me the answers for all of that. This was a case where I was trying to make her do something out of character.
“I’m of the school of thought that very often writer’s block is your story telling you that you’re going in the wrong direction.”
Absolutely 100% agree. The problem is figuring out when it’s you, or when it’s your story 😉