Some Write It Hot

February 23, 2011

The Cure For Writer’s Block by Amber Green

Sometimes I sit and stare into midair, trying to figure out what my character will do next. If the answer doesn’t come easily, and a simple mechanical exercise like changing the scene’s POV character doesn’t provide any solutions, I move to another scene. When more than a few such cloudy episodes have been left suspended in mid-air, though, they tend to form to a head-clogging substance that stops all forward motion. My favorite remedy for this situation is to run each of the characters—but especially the one who seems to be a problem—through a free online personality test.

As best I can tell, the test won’t work until I’ve wrestled with the character long enough to have several problems hanging in the air. Some of the ten-question pop quizzes give surprisingly useful insight, but my favorites are the 60- to 75-question Briggs Myers test, with or without a secondary Jungian analysis. The outcome of the test provides an archetype, says who this character has turned out to be, based on decisions I’ve made for and about him, as opposed to the character archetype I had planned to use for my story.

Say I plan for a scientist/thinker sort, an INTP. (After a few quizzes, this acronym will make perfect sense.) But as I write the scenes that come most easily, my decisions about this character’s preferences and instincts actually point toward an INTJ. Okay, so what’s an INTJ? Another professor/thinker type, but less of a goof and more sarcastic, less likely to get elbows deep in goop and more likely to come up with fifteen ways (on paper) to turn goop into poog, less likely to be the 25-year-old who makes a brilliant invention or discovery that no one can replicate and more likely to spend a lifetime discovering (and documenting) all the steps toward that brilliant outcome. Okay, so I have an INTJ character—what does that mean in terms of my unresolved scenes? The INTJ archetype has recognized strengths, like an INTJ’s ability to see the big picture and mental flexibility as far as accepting input. The archetype also comes with recognized weaknesses such as an INTJ’s insensitivity to other people’s feelings and tendency to react to extreme stress by focusing on minutia and repetitive activities. The archetype even comes with concrete details like an INTJ’s tendency toward sarcasm. Knowing these factors make my writing flow much more smoothly and easily.

Running all the primary characters through the same test (or a parallel test from another site) lets me use all kinds of canned wisdom about how this personality interacts with that personality, what conflicts they will face, and what action they (or the one of them who is most interested in cooperation) will have to take to work together. Say you have an INTJ trying to deal with Lucy from Peanuts, a classic ESTJ. To get any number of ideas for how the characters would clash and mesh, open your search engine’s bar and type in INTJ ESTJ.

By the way, if this reads like useless crap to you, your personality is unlikely to end in J.

October 12, 2010

Losing Direction AKA Losing Hope

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , , ,

This is my first post for Some Write it Hot, and I took a while to think on what I might blog about. I did consider posting a free read — one of my many unfinished first chapters — which in turn got me to thinking about the reason I have so many unfinished stories lurking on my hard drive.

If there’s one thing I can guarantee when writing a book it’s that I’m going to get stuck halfway through. It happened with the first two and it’s happening now with my third. Frustrating as hell, but there’s nothing to be done except write through the block. In my case this means adding a whole lot of new scenes, many of which I won’t use, until I find one that works to carry the story forward in a believable way.

Before I was published, when I got myself into difficulties with my stories, I’d put them away for a bit. Just for a month or so until inspiration struck. That month would soon turn into half a year, then another six months on top of that until I’d lose all interest in revising the story at all.

Now I’m published and trying to make a career for myself, I can’t afford to ‘put stories away’ anymore. I need to work through the frustration of not knowing where the hell the story is going next.

My latest WiP, a contemporary novella, started off slightly differently from my other stories. I swapped the unreliability of the ‘pantsing’ method, in favour of a more structured approach and wrote a detailed outline. I thought if I had a basic storyline to work with I’d avoid writing myself into a corner. I’d know exactly where I was going because I‘d have my map. A perfectly workable beginning, middle, and end. Sorted. I’d write this book in a couple of months and get it submitted soon after.

The one thing I didn’t count on was my characters’ objections to being taken for granted. They won’t fit in with my outline, and they so far have refused point blank to sleep with each other in chapter 6. They’d much prefer to wait until chapter 9 when they’ve got to know each other a little better. Putting the sex off a few chapters is fine …in any other genre. But I write erotic romance, and my MCs are all of a sudden…shy. Shy is not in my outline. I checked. I could go right back to chapter 1 and make sure I write the shyness away but that would mess too much with what I already have. A rewrite would disrupt the flow and besides, I like chapters 1 through 5.

What I’m doing at the moment is writing a whole lot of new scenes until I find something that will work. Something to tempt them into bed without it reading as though I’ve forced them into the bedroom together. The process is very time consuming, and a lot of the new stuff I’ve written won’t be used in the finished manuscript, but it’s the only way I can get through the block. I can’t afford to put the story away and hope the solution will come to me in a dream, because it won’t.

I don’t like to make things easy for my character and they certainly don’t like to make things easy for me. I envy those authors who write their stories straight through without a hitch. So far I have 45000 words and the novella will only be around 30000 words long when I’m done. If only my characters would behave themselves, I’m sure I’d be more productive.

Read more from Ash Penn at her website

%d bloggers like this: