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bear by san

December 2021



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rengeek player king

thirteen things to do when you run out of plot:**

1. Send in a man with a gun. A classic, yes, but a classic because it works. What we mean by this is, shake something up, cause a change in direction, make the characters (and your brain!) react. Getting characters laid works too, but be sparing.

2. Kill somebody. The more vital you think they are to your story, the better. Look at it this way: at least it will be a surprise.

2a. Kill somebody fictional, I mean. Although murdering one's spouse might sometimes relieve frustration, and there is plenty of time to write in jail, it's still hard on the kids.
3. Go for a walk.

4. If that doesn't work, either wash dishes or take a shower. It's now known that inspiration is dissolved in common hot tap water.

5. Research.

6. Crib from a classic source. It was good enough for Shakespeare.

7. Explain the problem to a friend. This is especially effective if you can trap them in a moving car on a cross-country trip. Half the time, in the process of explaining it, you'll figure something out. Another third of the time, they will give you an answer in self-defense after the first three hours. If you attempt this technique in restaurants, be ready for extremely attentive service as the waiter tries to overhear where you hid the body.*

8. Find something to make worse, and make it worse. Do this over and over and over again. The technical term for this technique is "escalation."

9. Get out the manuscript that you have written and go through it. Outline it. For each scene, write down who is in the scene, what happens, and what changes occur over its course. What is resolved? What is worsened? What is established? What's the pivot of the scene? When you come to the end of the outline, you will have a handy list of everything the book is doing, so you can keep doing it.

10. Play repetitive mindless computer games for hours. Realize you've wasted the entire writing session and go make dinner. Watch TV with (unmurdered) spouse. Wake up at 2 am from vivid dream with a head full of plot.

11. Go through the manuscript (or your reverse outline) again, and this time figure out all the things that need to get done before the book can end. Write them down on notecards. Tell yourself that you will write a scene in which one (1) notecard's worth of problem will be dealt with. The write it.

12. Give the characters something else to do and let them explain the plot to you while they eat dinner or play poker or whatever. You can always cut this later. Go ahead and write it now.

13. Write differently. Switch to pen and paper, or write on tiny scraps of notepaper (not intimidating) or switch to the computer if you were writing longhand, or type it in a email to somebody who will only make fun of you a little.

*In the current climate of fear, we recommend not using this technique on aircraft or trains.

** because jonquil asked.


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I read the title as Thirteen things to do when you run out of pot.

Which is a different list entirely :)
1. get some work done....
Explain the problem to a friend

This trick works for me in my day job as a software engineer all the damned time. I'll be stuck, banging my head against something, go to one of my colleague's offices, whine about it, and half-way through the whine have the answer.

I actually don't find much different in my mental processes, in general, between writing code and writing prose. I sometimes joke that I tell stories to computers for a living, and aspire to some day make at least a partial living by programming people's brains. The main difference is that computers have to believe whatever you tell them, even when it's clearly absurd. Of course, if a writer's really on the ball, s/he can do that with people, too...

Anyway, I think part of the problem is that our culture has a thing about reading and thinking silently. But different parts of the human brain don't always get their input by direct digital connection. Sometimes, you need to feed-back into the creative brain by using old-fashioned analogue methods, like through the ears.

(Digression: Ever wonder why Latin just plain sounds good to the ears? It was a language meant to be heard. There's evidence that Romans read aloud, even in private, and that people who read silently were looked at as extremely odd).
Yup. The "ha ha only serious" version of this, at some sites, is to have a cardboard standee around that people can borrow to explain their problem to; once the problem is explained and the explainer has figured out the solution, the standee can be returned to its usual spot.
My problem with #10 is that I never wake up with a head full of the plot for the same story. Unless there's something going on with all the weird shit here that I'm incapable of discerning. This is not out of the question.
I suspect my aversion to this is that I'd want to find a way to incorporate the "work" that went into the interview, especially if I wrote it down (typed it out).

Bistromath as plot engine, as it were.
"Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood.

Blood is compulsory."

~Tom Stoppard, R&GaD
We're actors.

We're the opposite of people.
Oh, yes, this is the logic in which I killed the priest last week and now have my heroes running around Bohemia like chickens....
This is *so* going in memories right now!

Printed out, hung on the wall. In my mind, I find that doing dishes tends to work wonders. I think if I were to become a full-time writer, I'd have the Cleanest. Kitchen. Evar. :-)

Is that Adam Baldwin in your icon?

Because my ex went to elementary school with Adam Baldwin, and mostly remembers him as a fearsome bully.

I think "take a shower" is a sub-category of the more general aphorism that "doing something where you can't write your inspirations down" will lead to inspiration.

Which is a corollary to Murphy's Law. I think.
Oh yes. Sing in the church choir. I've been known to take the pencil from the choir lectern and scribble on a scrap of paper torn from the church bulletin.

Fantastic! Love the list.

Thank you.

I just thought of the man with a gun to send in, and my heart sank, which means it's definitely the right gun.

Thank you thank you.
I love #1. I usually call it "sending in the Scarrans" or "blowing something up", but yeah, works the same.

Great list.
2. Kill somebody. The more vital you think they are to your story, the better.

I am amused because I just mailed off a story where I killed a character every other scene.

The same character.

The main character, even.

But I don't think it counts as "what to do when you run out of plot" because that was the plot.
2. Kill somebody. The more vital you think they are to your story, the better. Look at it this way: at least it will be a surprise.

Aside to Harry Potter:

Sorry dude.
Think I've done some of those, but this post reminds me of an old issue of Esquire magazine which was all about sitcoms (there was a picture of Roseanne on the cover dressed like Jeannie). There was a list of the "Ten Great Sitcom Plots" and each one was illustrated with Barbie and Ken dolls...

The only "plot" I can remember is this one:

"When all else fails, put a man in a dress."
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