Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tunnel or Wall?

I have all kinds of partial manuscripts and short stories (even poems) that are incomplete: romances, mysteries, mainstream, even some horror. Several pieces of work are just one chapter while others are as long as five or six chapters. The reason they’re just hanging out there unfinished is because I’ve written myself into a corner or up a tree, or to the middle of a pond (or fire), and have no idea what to do next. I’ve always been told if we can’t get a character from one to the next, then our character has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Probably in the last scene we wrote. We need to identify what caused our character to stall.  When I get stuck, I usually fall into the wrong mindset. I act/think/believe as though there’s only one way to solve a problem. There’s not.  

We had a visiting pastor today who told us, “If the wall is too tall, try the tunnel.” Good thought for writing ourselves out of a corner, huh?
Really, the best way to get out of a ‘block’ is to ask a few questions about what the character can do next--regardless of how silly those questions might be. Sometimes silly ideas can lead to logical actions. Then again, I’ve been known to just let my character sit there  in the corner and think things over. While s/he’s thinking, my subconscious is mulling.  I’ve also heard adding another character can work or skipping ahead to tackle the ending, then working backwards. At least it gets us back to writing. Whatever works.
When you write yourself into a corner, what do you do? Teach me something about writing dilemmas. Tunnel or wall?


Charles Gramlich said...

It's not typically the 'corners' that get me. It's when I am going gangbusters on a piece and real life or work life intrudes and it all comes to a stop. Many times I don't go forward after that because the enthusiasm I had for the tale is lost and has been replaced by other enthusiasms for other tales.

Carole said...

Good questions. Usually just start from scratch and end up with another corner. Which allows for a great lot of starts and no finishes.

James R Tate said...

Two things come to mind here for me. Find the central focus of what I started writing the story for in the first place--Sometimes we wonder too far off the path. The second thing that helps me is to have an ending in mind, and refocus on how to get to that ending. If that doesn't work there's always the recycle bin.

Jess said...

Charles - I know exactly what you mean. That happens to me way too often.

Carole - I have way too many starts. The middle is what slows me down. I always feel as though I'm in quicksand when I get to the middle.

James - good points. Remember, you said RECYCLE -- not THROW AWAY. :)

Joanne Bischof said...

I've been there, too. When I get writer's block, I definitely know its time to get some fresh air. A walk does wonders. Also, I just sit down and start at any given point in a scene, even if it's the end, or a piece of punchy dialogue. Often times it will begin to take shape around that moment.

Jess said...

Joanne - hello! The best thing I can do for writer's block is get in the car and drive. Works every time. A little dangerous for everyone on the road with me put sure puts me in a very creative frame of mind. :)