Writing deadlines and publishers don’t care if the muse decides to go on hiatus. I’ve got a deadline coming up (April 15th) and a stalled story. When ideas don’t come quickly, I don’t have a choice. I have to “get in there” and figure it out. (This is why I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I seem to get ideas when I’m “in” the story, and that happens most when I write.)
I’ve wasted enough word count on dialogue that lets the audience know the necessary backstory. I don’t want to waste any more words without knowing a bit where I’m going.
I’ve been in this situation before. In my second novel, Out of the Shadows, I had my hero, Davian, walking around in the northern wilderness for two chapters while he tried to “find himself.” You know, really boring, symbolic stuff that Literature teachers just love that take up too many words and stall the action. (Can you see why I’m writing pulp now?) I wasted a good week or two on words I ended up deleting. (Correction: taking out of the story and pasting in my “deleted items” file.)
I don’t have time to waste words, so I had to go find my story without any help from the muse.
Here are a few things I’ve done and I do in these situations:
Use visuals. I once sat in front of a mural of an old Victorian street corner to help myself get into the scene and come up with a short story for Dark Oak’s soon-to-be published steampunk anthology, Dreams of Steam 5. I closed my eyes and put myself in the scene until I could find a story. (It’s called “The Death of Angelica Blackmore,” btw, and if you have read “The Survivor” or seen the videos where I tell the story, that might make you a little nervous.)
Last night, I pulled out the DVDs of all the pulp-ish movies that I own and stared at them for a bit, trying to get in an adventurous mood.
Figure out the essence of your story. I decided to look at each of the stories and figure out their main essence. Here is what I decided:
–Firefly – A group trying to keep to themselves and make a living, but unfortunately space is full of bad guys. And blue gloves.
–Indiana Jones – find the magic artifact before the bad guys get it.
–A-Team – restore your names while being hunted as fugitives
–Guardians – save the Galaxy without killing each other
–The Mummy – put the monster you awakened back in the box
–James Bond – save the world
–RED – Old spies showing the young spies how it’s done.
Do a quick character drive analysis. Knowing what drives your characters, what makes them do what they do, can often help you find your story.
I figured out that this Michael Lodestone story is not just about Michael hunting witches. It’s not a cat and mouse. This is two lions hunting each other, which totally changes the essence of the story. This is a chess game. Good and evil hunting each other in the dark corners of the modern world in a battle no one knows about. Michael is more aggressive than the modern superhero because he is actively looking to kill the bad guys rather than waiting for an excuse. The lead witch he is hunting has magic to her advantage (since he is not allowed to use it). He is the only person on earth who can take her life. May the games begin.
Muse? Who needs one?
How about you? What do you do to get ideas flowing when you are stalled?