Monday, May 11, 2009

Stumped?

I've sat here for a few minutes and stared at the Blogger 'new post' screen and wondered what today's writing post is going to be about. When I started typing the first sentence I still didn't know. By the time I got to the second one, I did.

It's about letting your subconscious and your fingers connect while your conscious mind stays out of the picture.

There's probably a word for that. And there's probably some how-to book about it. But here's my version and what works for me.

When I reach a place where I don't know what to write, I'll take a short break if it's in the middle of the day. If it occurs when I'm just starting to write, such as happened here this morning, I'll just start writing.

If it's fiction, I'll start writing from the character's point of view. And I start small - I start with minute details. Such as: He woke up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. For the jillionth time the stain on the floor yelled at him to call the carpet cleaner. "Shut up," he said, staring straight at it and making a face. When he stood, he purposely placed his left foot square on top of the stain so that only a little strip of it, like a lightning bolt, could be seen.

Now that's horrible. And I know that I'll toss whatever I write during this time. But that's OK. Usually, this happens after I've begun the story and I know what the character needs to do next but I'm not quite sure the best way to get her there. So whatever I type will be things that will move her forward from Point A to Point B.

Sometimes I'm lucky and it's only a sentence or two. Sometimes not, and it's a couple of pages. But at some point, the lightbulb clicks on, and I'm good to go with the real words and story.

It works for me.

Give it a try next time you're stumped. Maybe it will work for you, too.

2 comments:

Jan Christensen said...

Not horrible! Not a horrible start at all. Yes, we are not supposed to start with someone getting out of bed, unless the getting out of bed has some quite interesting element. A stain on the carpet, and how this character reacted is priceless. If you don't want to use it as the beginning of a piece, I sure hope you use it in the middle somewhere. Or just start with the stain.

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks for saying it isn't horrible, but it's raw and needs some spit and polish if it would stay in a story.

Now if it was setting the scene for the stain to be a blood stain, then yeah, it might could work.

Or if he spilled coffee because he dropped to the floor when a bullet shot through his window, then yeah, it might could work.

Or if the character has a habit of talking to inanimate objects or something of the like, then yeah, it might could work.

But if the purpose of this section or this chapter is to move him into confrontation with someone else and the stain has nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the plot or with characterization, then it needs to go.

But it will have served its purpose, and that was to get you started.