If you consider your structure as an impediment to your imagination, this article is for you.
If you hit writer’s blocks in a regular fashion, you might be a panster (you write at the seat of your pants), but you need some structure to unjam your plot.
But even for the regular planner, structure might be a cumbersome tool or hinder creativity in some sneaky ways.
Keep the following points in mind with the hope that your writer’s blocks will remain a thing of the past.
Is your story boring to you?
Is your story annoying to you?
Is your story too light in themes, actions, or reflections? Is there enough to go on?
Is your story layered enough?
Are your characters complex?
Can you simplify the plot and deepen it?
Are there some subplots that helps the story along?
While writing a story, it is important to know where we are going, at all times. It is also important to be clear. Sometimes we are stuck because things were vague and we have no precise idea about what we want to demonstrate or do with our world.
- Write the first and the last sentences of a scene, a chapter, or even the novel. Know where you’re going before you actually get there and write your piece.
- Summarize what you have so far. Is there a clear goal for each scene or chapter?
- Does your novel have a clear theme?
- Is there something missing in the story? Do you need to show a step, but didn’t include it yet? Now is the time.
- Consider the movement: cause–effect as you write scene after scene. If you can move around your scenes, then there is no logical link between what happened and its results.
- Is there an aspect of your world that is confusing or could be potentially confusing? Clarify it.
- Did you answer all the questions the reader might have about each scene? Go from scene to scene and decide of four questions that need to be answered before you move on. Did you answer them?
- What is the story question and is the hero trying to solve the story questions?
- Did you exploit every nugget in your world? Is there a situation or aspect of your world you have hinted at but never developed?
Consider where you are in your story. You will use different plot tricks depending on what place you have reached inside your story.
- Are you at the beginning? If so, can you get someone to force the hero to do something he or she does not want to do? Is there a threshold the hero must pass to get to another leg of the story? Can this threshold be real or physical? If the hero is compelled to make a decision that will change his life, can you pinpoint the steps that will lead to this decision?
- Are you in the middle? Can you add another type of conflict you haven’t explored so far? There are basically seven types of conflicts: person versus self, person versus natures, person versus person, person versus fate, person versus society, person versus the unknown, and person versus machines.
Remember that the hero will fail at least three times before finding a solution to the problem. What complication does each failure bring?
This is not the place to introduce new characters, but you could have a character reversal (the friend becomes the enemy; the villain becomes the hero; the hero realizes he had no idea what was really going on; the world turns upside down.)
Could someone from the past reappear and cause the hero worries?
Could the hero realize he has been duped?
Can the hero gather a group of helpers around him? What will it take to get their help?
- Are you at the dark moment? It is less common to have writer’s blocks at the dark moment when the hero seems to have all the avenues closed and the situation seems desperate, but it can happen.
- The trick here is to come up with a solution to answer the story question once and for all. Go back to the story question. Why did your hero go on this adventure? How did your hero try to answer the question or solve the main problem?
- Examine the motivations of the hero. Then, find a way to answer the story question, a unique way, not the way that comes first to mind, but a way that will add a twist to your story.
- Does your hero realize something important? Does your hero find the way to solve his or her main weakness? Was your hero blind? Selfish? Unable to see the truth? What can happen to make him realize that the answer was always there, in front of his eyes, but he didn’t want to see it or he wasn’t ready for it?
- Writer’s blocks rarely come at the climax because the climax is the sum of all the work you’ve been doing in your novel. If you are having blocks at the moment of the climax, gather up all the subplots and unravel the knots, unveil what was hidden, and finish up all subplots before you get to the climax.
Consider that most stories follow seven basic storylines. See The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories is a 2004 book by Christopher Booker. Is your story following one of these? These are full proof stories and might give you a basic plan to follow. Maybe one subplot might follow one of these storylines and the main plot another.
- Overcoming the Monster. (Beowulf, Dracula, Star Wars, Harry Potter)
- Rags to Riches. (Jane Eyre, Ready player one by Cline, variations of Cinderella)
- The Quest. (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Earthsea)
- Voyage and Return. (Alice in Wonderland, The Time Machine, Spirited Away)
- Comedy. Triumph over adversity. Mostly romance. (Sliding Doors, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Caraval by Garder)
- Tragedy. Flaw or error that will be the hero’s undoing. Ends badly. (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Madame Bovary, The Fault in Our Stars)
- Rebirth. An important event forces the hero to change his ways. (Despicable Me, Megamind, A Christmas Carol)
Figure out what might be going wrong with the structural integrity of your story.
Is there something missing?
Is there too much going on?
s there a logical progression both in action and psychologically?
Sometimes adding a new layer to the plot is enough to get our juices flowing.
Maybe you need to go deeper into your world. Maybe you skipped a step and because of this step missing you feel stuck.
Maybe a subplot is not supporting the main plot and is just there to add diversity and excitement.
Maybe the subplot sounds more interesting than the main story? In that case, take the subplot and start a new story with it. Make sure the villain or the antagonist is actively interacting with the hero and making his path harder.
If you feel confused, you probably need more clarity and clearer goals. Maybe you started too many paths in your story. Go back and explain more. Draw from the backstory. Or have clear goals and motivations.
If you feel dry, unimaginative, maybe you need more complexity. Dig deeper. Exploit themes in a new way. Add layers to your world.
If you feel the story is awkward, unappealing, maybe you need stronger characters with marked personalities and complexity. Maybe you need a meaner villain. Maybe you need a story question that will carry your story.
Whatever is blocking you, take a deep breath, go for a walk, meet new people, unwind.
Clarify will come your way