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Friday, May 23, 2008


I have writer's block. It's official. I've been working on one scene for nearly three weeks now. I can't move on until I figure out what happens in this scene. I know the problems:

1.) The scene is centered around dialogue instead of action.

2.) There is no conflict in the scene.

3.) I still don't entirely know what I need to accomplish with the scene, I just know that I need to accomplish something.

While I've uncovered some interesting nuggets while writing said scene, it's still just a sketch of something, and not coming to be anything.

What action can replace this dialogue?

What conflict could arise from this action?

Where do I want my character to go?

I'm hoping that stating these problems and questions plainly will assist me in thinking about them in a new way.


stu said...

This is just a thought, but if you can't work out what's trying to happen in this scene and where it fits into the whole, then it possibly isn't an essential scene.

A few other suggestions:

You could try writing the whole story out in its simplest form, with just the central action for each scene. Do it quickly, and the momentum of it might break through the block.

Work out what's happening in the next few scenes, or in any scene it's leading to. That should produce a clearer idea of what needs to get done.

Insert some completely arbitrary action as a background for the dialogue, to at least give a sense that something is happening.

Anonymous said...

So sorry you're stuck. Is it a pacing issue? Sometimes the best way to go when you're stuck is to do something completely radical that may not work with the story as a whole. Denis Johnson does this a lot in "Jesus' Son." All of a sudden the narration will switch to speculative/future or there's a radical POV shift. While it may not make it into the final draft, sometimes doing something far out there can really unblock you or show you what the heart of your story really is. So, speculate, do some stream of conscious, do 3rd person grand Marquez style, or an unforgiving microscopic 1st. Stu's suggestions also sound pretty helpful. Stick it through.

Stephanie said...

Thank you Stu and Randika for the suggestions. I actually ended up trying a little bit of both of your suggestions until I figured out what needed to happen.

Concentrating on the next few scenes helped me hone in on what I wanted to accomplish and gave me a foundation on which to build the scene.

As for radical changes, I wrote the scene three different ways, in three different locations, with three different meaningless actions behind it, until I sort of discovered within the text.

What I learned was that while I was pushing for an action against which to have the discussion set, what I really needed was to infuse the dialogue with conflict to drive it forward, and made sure the scene was set in the right location.

That's what ended up working anyhow. So I solved two out of the three problems and think it's holding up just fine.

Anyhow, thank you both for the very helpful hints and encouragement.