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3 Ways to Get Your Story Unstuck

Categories: Brian Klems' The Writer's Dig Tags: Brian Klems, online editor blog.

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It will happen eventually—that moment when you realize you’re bogged down in the muck of your story. You don’t know where to go next or what the character should do. The seed of doubt sprouts then, unless you’re careful, will take root and bloom into full-on writer’s block. Here are suggestions on how to stop it—and make your story even stronger in the process.

—by Kevin Kaiser

1. Give your readers what they want, but not what they expect.

If you find yourself stuck on a story point, ask yourself one simple question: “What would the reader expect to happen next?” After you consider the answer, do the exact opposite. Turn the entire thing on its head and see how it looks. You might not ultimately go with that solution, but by considering the problem from a different angle will often be just the thing you need to move forward.

2. Kill someone.

I met adventure author James Rollins at a conference several years ago. As we were talking about storytelling he dropped this helpful tip, which he said has gotten many writers, him included, unstuck.

So when in doubt, kill a character.

3. Meditate.

Seriously. Meditate. I’m not suggesting that you should sit in the lotus position and say om while an MP3 of Tibetan monks chanting plays in the background. You should, however, find a quiet place, free of distraction and breathe slowly and deeply. Daydream and let your mind wander. I’ve done it while on walks through my neighborhood and, along the way, have stumbled upon the solution to a story problem.

Stillness is the native language of creativity, yet it’s astonishing how we try to avoid silence. Our minds churn all the time, but it’s in the space between thoughts where ideas present themselves. They seem to come to us on their own in flashes or epiphanies. But you have to make room for silence.

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Guest column by Kevin Kaiser, who is the author of @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers, the profits of which go to support the future of NaNoWriMo. He blogs about how to write for a living without losing your soul. Follow @KevinSKaiser on Twitter.

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5 Responses to 3 Ways to Get Your Story Unstuck

  1. mpsasank says:

    George R R martin took the second suggestion… often

  2. Trissa says:

    I’m writing a “cozy” murder, so I’m already killing a character. Next…!

  3. jotokai says:

    I’m assuming you mean, let one of the characters die.

    Actually killing somebody might be too desperate a prescription even for Dr. House!

    What’s brilliant about this article is that each suggestion tackles the problem from a different perspective, leaving the details to our imaginations. Kudos!

  4. jevon says:

    I’m thinking the first point is like a plot twist, an event that really shocks the reader.

    That kill someone point is really brutal.

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