Faced with writer’s block, listen to your minor characters

You wrote a furious first half, then faltered.  Blocked.

You’d  set up the situation of your story and put your characters in motion, felt good about what you’d done, and suddenly could not find your way forward.   Oh, you could keep writing.  You had a plot outline, and you weren’t totally blank, but you didn’t like any of the possibilities that came to mind.  Or something like that.
Hopefully, your work didn’t fall into a drawer or the trash at that point.
Facing a block today, I remembered an exercise from a writing workshop–writing a first-person monologue from the point of view of a minor character in the story.  The purpose of the exercise was to add depth to characters and learn more about our developing stories.   Writers like to say “learn” as thought the story is waiting to be discovered.  That’s how it feels.  It may be more accurate to say that there can be many reasons for a character’s actions, and looking through the eyes of the POV character isn’t always the best way to understand them. 
Guess what, learning more about the story can help a writer get over a block.  Seems obvious.
I gave today’s monologue to a character named Bright, a man antagonistic to the main character, but unlikely to affect events in a big way.  He’d appeared only twice, and I chose him for the exercise because I knew he needed to get into the story again.  I’ve noted before that we can’t introduce characters and forget about them.  That happens in life, not in fiction.  Well, maybe in some types of fiction, like if dropping people is supposed to be the point.
In the monologue exercise, Bright redefined his role from his point of view.  Result:  a new scene, new possibilities.  Block over.
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4 Comments

Filed under Writing

4 responses to “Faced with writer’s block, listen to your minor characters

  1. I'm glad to see that you've tackled your writer's block. I recently suffered from this horrible affliction, and, ironically, got over it by blogging. Next time I'll have to try this technique 🙂

  2. I agree, Diane–blogging is stimulating. Writing a piece is like high energy food.Usually when I'm "blocked" I think what I'm doing is trivial and poor. That's a bad place to be! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Writing a monologue like that sounds similar to a technique I learned last year of "interviewing" your characters. I've used it to gain insight into their feelings and motivations to help make them more real. This is an altogether different and ingenious use of that kind of tool. Nice!

  4. Botanist, I agree, interviewing is good. So is the character bio. Because it's in first person, the monologue has a confessional feel.Good to see you here–and thanks for your thoughts.

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