What would this week be without some Writer’s Block help? I remember working on a story that I was going to set in San Francisco about a decade ago and the storyline was falling flat. I had piles and piles of dialogue that lead absolutely nowhere. This was supposed to be about a romantic chase, a thriller and I had to do something very painful. I tool my thousand pages and let them go because the story just wasn’t there. I was too focused touring locations than creating strong characters and a story that lead to an end destination.
My great idea stopped and became the never ending story that I couldn’t seem to get down on paper. My main romantic interest had gone from spy, to gangster, and rich guardian. I had a thousand pages of what looked like a tourist guide of San Francisco. Playwrights like David Mamet would roll his eyes at me because the locations took over instead of the story. I had to stop myself and file the many pages back into the idea drawer. It wasn’t ready to be told.
Does that mean that it never be told? No, it just means that sometimes we need to let some of novels sit for a while until purpose finds them. I kept my notes, research, and wandering pages and asked myself now what? That’s one of the reasons I usually have more than one novel going at a time. What else can you do about a never ending story?
Today, is about sharing another way that I deal with writer’s block. I’ve carried this tool around with me ever since I was a teen – when I’m stuck I write my characters letters. Sometimes, they’re love letters. Other times, they’re letters as if we’re life long pen pals and we’re writing to each in our own secret language. We help each other out with our problems and sometimes, the writing in those letters become part of the novel.
Becoming pen pals with your characters will slowly reveal them like a long lost friend. You can pick up this practice and write to your characters. Have them write back and get to know them better. The more you write back and forth the more their voice and personality develop on paper.
This may feel odd at first, but the more you do it the more natural and real it will feel. Letting your characters speak for themselves will help with the process of stepping back from your novel. Readers will still find pieces of us in the story but it won’t take over what could happen in your novel. Go outside yourself allows you to go deeper.
When other methods aren’t working while you write, then give this exercise a try. You might be surprised at what your characters have to tell you.
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