Get the fun back in!
If you happened to encounter a writer’s block, tell the story to someone: a friend, a pet, your kids, your spouse, someone in the street.
Everyone appreciates stories. Stories are so much part of our lives no one would refuse to listen to a good one. The best way to figure out if your story is interesting is to tell it to someone and see their reaction.
But you cannot just walk up to someone and start telling the story.
You probably do not have an infinite pool of friends either, one of those friends who have the time to listen to you. So practice first.
Imagine you are giving a lecture in front of a room packed with fans, or imagine you are invited to a TED talk.
- Practice in front of the mirror.
- Use descriptive words and gestures to distinguish your characters and the settings.
- Use sound effects to make your audience feel part of the story. Tree leaves rustle, steps on the gravel crack, doors creek.
- Alternate short dialogues with narration to give personality to your characters. Without personality, no one will picture your characters and even less the story. Bringing your characters to life concretely should force you to come up with new situations. Example: The old man grumbled in his beard as he stacked the cars on top of the other, “These dawn toy cars are lighter year after year. Soon enough, there won’t be enough metal to scrap and make a living.”
- Pick a costume for each character if you can. Or maybe just an object that is dear to your character.
- Pick a voice for each character. That will force you to work with concrete traits. The more alive the characters are for you, the more you will understand them, and the more you will sense what is supposed to come next in your story.
- When you arrive at a part where you draw a blank, make up something. Quick. Anything. For example, the character had a yellow handkerchief. Draw from the detail. No one uses handkerchiefs anymore, but don’t you mind. Why is it yellow? Maybe the character uses it to dab paint from his artwork? Make up crazy stuff, funny stuff, surprising stuff to surprise yourself and reignite the spark of imagination.
- Ask questions to your audience. What do you think happened next? Why did he have a yellow handkerchief? If you interact with a group of kids, they will probably rival to give you answers. Encourage them. Do you think there were one, two, twenty cars? How do you picture the setting?
- Keep it flowing. Give your audience answers.
- Make your hero do things you would never attempt. Make her sound bigger than life. Still, keep her real. Start with a problem we have in our society. (For example, betting in bars.) Then, make the audience want to change that. Show a main drawback.
- It could start with something trivial, and then slowly hint at more stakes.
- Make it highly emotional.
- Start in the middle of the action. Your hero is in a hot spot. Put your heroine in a bizarre or unexpected situation.
- Start from a memory, a personal memory that you will change and morph to your needs. If you have no idea what memory to use, ask your audience. Example: Do they remember one day being in a bar and what is the most unusual, funniest memory they have of it? Draw from their experiences.
- Free associate. Think “bar” and what you associate with it. Use the senses. Example: The acrid smell of beer, the music that shuts all of a sudden when people are trying to yell over the song, etc.
- Capture the heart of your audience. Do not state the facts, but appeal to their sense of empathy, their pity, or their experiences. Example: Cateye leaned against the counter. “Oh, my,” she thought, “why did I even accept this bet? Who would be stupid enough to kiss the first guy entering a bar?” Cateye blushed at the idea. The guy who just entered was blowing his nose and coughed. Cough, Cough. She backed up. Ew! Getting sick wasn’t part of the deal.
- You want your audience to crave a resolution.
- Try different paths to test the reaction of your audience. Example: Cateye lounged onward to grab the man's neck. No, no, of course not. Maybe she ran away from the bar, but then she would lose. Nah, she kissed the bartender instead. He had the most adorable brown eyes she’d ever seen.
- Make sure your hero grows from each experience. Example: From now on, Cateye would be the designated driver. There was no point getting into silly games.
- Show the benefits of taking risks. Example: Cateye smiled when she saw her lipstick shining on the bartender’s cheek. He blushed after catching her eye. She dived for her purse to pay for the drinks. He waved his hand. “No, no,” he said. “It’s on the house.” On the house? Maybe she ought to kiss more bartenders after all.
- Make sure your heroine wants something deeply. She will try to get it, but will fail over and over again. Each time she fails, she will get into more trouble, and be the wisest for it. Example: After Cateye left the bar, Claudine grabbed her by the arm. “You little cheat. You didn’t keep your side of the bargain. You lost, which means you owe me. Believe me, you don’t want to lose to a vampire.” Claudine showed her fangs and snapped them together. “Okay, we’ll try again,” Cateye said, trembling in her skinny jeans. “Chill out. I was just taking a break.”
- In the third or so attempt, the hero will succeed. The heroine will realize she knew how to overcome the problem or the trial right from the start. She just had to overcome a flaw. Example: Cateye didn’t have to kiss asses. She had it in her all along. She would face that vampire. A stake behind her back, she approached Claudine. The vampire cocked her head. “What d’yea want?” Cateye straightened. “I do not have to obey your orders anymore, and you don’t have to compel me to do your dirty work. I’m my own person. Vampires are rats.” “Is that so?” Claudine said, standing up and baring her fangs. “I’ll kiss you, not those creeps,” Cateye said. Claudine smiled dangerously. “If you dare,” Claudine said. Cateye bit into the vervain pill she was holding under her tongue and kissed Claudine. Ew, her mouth tasted of blood. The result didn’t start showing. The vampire howled in pain and her knees wobbled. “This is for all the times you’ve abused me,” Cateye said, staking her.
- Have fun. The ending should be satisfying. It doesn't have to be the real ending of your actual story. The idea is to get the juices going.
The thing is, you don’t have to tell the whole story either. You just need to find a way to get over your writer’s block and break the wall. You need to get excited about the rest of the story and an audience usually motivates writers to do their best. You could tell only one episode or a subplot instead of the main story. You could also make the story so much simpler.
So go ahead, uncomplicate the story, straighten the parts where you felt confused and overwhelmed, and have fun.