What should I do when I find myself unable to figure out what comes next in a story? How do other writers handle this kind of situation?
1. Some writers figure they’ve taken a wrong turn, and back up a few pages, turn the story in a different direction. 2. Others bang out their word count each day, no matter how bad it is, until some kind of answer comes to them. At that point, they may throw out everything they’ve written since the ‘block’ first occurred, but at least they’ve been working. 3. Still others shove that project into a back corner of their mind and work on something else until their subconscious figures out what went wrong.
I don’t do #2. I don’t like to sit in front of my computer without actually doing something. And sitting here banging out c**p I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up throwing away strikes me as just as big a time-waster. I have done #3 a few times. Some of those projects are still shoved into a back corner, and others have resulted in my doing #1.
But I have a step I do before I do anything else, to see if I really am stuck. I examine the current scene and situation of my characters, not from the point of view of being the author, but from the point of view of the characters involved. What got them to this point? How would they react in this situation?
I look at ‘my’ stories as tales told me by the characters. So if we get to a point that I don’t understand, perhaps I just need more information from those characters. Maybe they’ve been embarrassed to explain themselves more fully and I need to converse with them, understand what they’ve been through. In that case, I may need to make a few changes to help explain things better to the reader (shades of #1), but I can go on.
If the characters are confused and don’t have answers, then I truly have my work cut out for me. That’s when I move to #3 – put the project aside until my characters and I can figure out what’s what.
Goodness, there’s plenty of characters and stories out there for me to work on in the meantime.