Recently, as part of an anthology my writing groups is putting together, I had to write a short story of at least 2,000 words. I decided to make it crime fiction. The characters came to easily, but the plot … I had a problem with the plot.
Over the past few years, the only original writing I’ve done were blog posts and a few poems. Most of my fiction writing time has been consumed with editing my YA novel. Working out a logical plot for my short story was nothing less than painful, and I mean that literally. My stomach hurt of a week as I puzzled over the plot. It was almost impossible for me to focus on anything else.
When I finally found a resolution, I learned a few things about breaking my writer’s block for the plot.
- Beginning + End = Middle
I started writing my short story without an ending in mind, and that is a big problem for me. I had concocted an intriguing beginning, but once I wrote that down, I had no clue where I was heading. I must have a goal to work for. Whether it is a story or just a chapter, before I sit down to write, I need to know how I will begin and end. Without an ending, I stalled.
2. Find a Deeper Meaning
Once I put down the bare bones of my story, I found it empty. Just solving the crime wasn’t enough. I needed some deeper, more universal truth, something that went beyond the conventions of crime fiction.
3. Know Your Characters Like Your Best Friends
I am a character writer. I start a story because I discover characters I can’t wait to throw into dramatic situations.
For my short story, I was working with characters I had only known a few days, instead of years. This made me uncomfortable. But the longer I worked with them, gaining an understanding of their personalities, the more plot ideas sprang up. Through exploring my characters, I unearthed the deeper meaning my story needed.
What do you do to break writer’s block?
Strangely, for my current story I haven’t struggled with writer’s block much. When I’ve had a problem with one scene I’m working on, I’ll take a break from that one and either work on another scene or another story altogether.
Taking a break is great advice! When working on my short story, I had to take a break for a part of a day because my husband had the day off, and I wanted to spend time with him. We went for a hike. It was the best thing I could have done, giving my brain a respite from plotting.
That’s great to hear! We all need a break once in a while, no matter how long or short it is, or what we do during that break. And hopefully we come back refreshed and ready to write again.
Great tips! Since I’ve been working with settings in the late 30s and 40s, reading non- fiction about the era gives me TONS of ideas for events and details that I want to include, and helps me consider how my characters would be effected and changed by the world around them. (It also makes me crazy because I obsess over getting all of the details accurate, or at least believable… 🙂 )
Your reliance on research to inspire your story reminds me of my friend Sandra Merville Hart. She writes Civil War romances and says she let the research dictate the story.
It’s fascinating to see what real people went through- some of it would sound unbelievable if written as fiction 🙂