David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 8, 2011 - 2:43am

I'm stuck at a part in my book, I know where the story is going just everytime I sit down to write I just feel nothing. When i first started I was so excited I did about half of the book in a month, but now I'm at a turning point in the story where all the characters are just completely changing, except one, and I just can't feel the story. In a way I love my characters to much to write what has to be written but there's just no other way the story can go, at this point in the story only one character seems to have hope. I have to kill one, completely break another and turn the antagonist into te monster I've been building him up to be. I'm just looking for suggestions on how to feel inspired again and get over this block that has been going on for about seven months.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin December 8, 2011 - 3:27am

A friend of mine once joked that they understood the rule about how you shouldn't put a gun into a story without firing it, but it seemed to them that my philosophy was never to put a character into a story who I wasn't going to kill. Make sure they live full lives and that you get what you need out of them and then let it rip man, they will still exist in the previous chapters and trust me, you'll have plenty of editing time to spend in the scenes where you and your characters are getting along.

So, have you planned this out? Do you know how it goes down? You say your characters have changed, can you be a little more specific? On the one hand obviously they are supposed to change and develop, that's the nature of a story, but on the other hand I know that sometimes they make unexpected decisions and as a writer you have to deal with them, be honest with them and about them, or else they lose their roundness, I'm just trying to figure out what specifically you're dealing with here. Are they afraid?

If they are afraid then hit one of them really hard. Open up a new word document, I don't know if you already do (when I was writing my novel I always did the newest scene on a blank Document 1 and then copy/pasted it into place, but again, I did not construct my novel in a linear fashion, it is a linear novel and it reads as a single continuous story, but when I was at your point I had already written many of the painful scenes while I was filling in what needed to happen for my mental outline, but enough of my ego, I'm sorry to have subjected you to this much of it). Anyways, open up a completely unrelated document, something that is "non-canon" for your story, you don't have to save it, you don't have to put it in the book, it doesn't even have to be consistent with the plot points that need to happen. But then just let loose on one of the characters, tear them apart, reduce them to a smoldering heap and then hit them again and again.

You will feel better about it, you will know the character's weak points better, you will be a little more used to letting them get hurt, and even if you delete that file and never think of it again you will have gotten good practice in distancing yourself emotionally from the imaginary people in your stories.

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 8, 2011 - 3:40am

At the point my characters are at now devin, the protagonist, has found true love which he has been searching for up until this point where he found Emily. Now in order for him to meet with quinton, the antagonist, Emily has to be killed and devin has to be completely broken. That's not the part that is really all that hard for me, although I am struggling with a suitable death for Emily, but once devin meets quinton he is been completely broken and is now just kind of like an unformed mush. At the beggining of the story quinton set out, leaving his family, to fully experience life and along the way he has become just a completely debased and awful person. When he meets devin he going to kind of take him under his wing and show him all the joys to be had in his lifestyle. The whole point of these two characters is to portray one, quinton, as pure evil and devin as pure innocence. My problem is destroying devin and dragging him through all the terrible things I am going to. The whole point of the story is that some bit of that child like purity can always be in you no matter what awful things you've seen or done. Devin is kinda like an analogy for growing up and being mature so it's kind of like I'm popping his cherry but with things like murder and rape.
By the way I love te idea about unleashing on your characters. Never thought of it before but I'll definately try it.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin December 8, 2011 - 5:14am

See, for me, I would enjoy writing a scene like this Emily character getting killed (of course, I say that but it makes me think of my own protagonist's gf in Citizens, and I am very much in love with Tina, I would have had a great deal of trouble trying to kill her as well (but she serves a different role, very important, not available to be killed, had to find others for that)) just because then you get to really express all of the emotions and characteristics involved with her to the maximum extent.

You have to be careful, though, with characters you get attached to. It gets hard to take a level view of them and say "These are the specific qualities that make them worthwhile, these are the things that make this character likeable to everyone" because you just like them, you're proud of them, and it is possible that a lot of the things that you like them for didn't ever really make it on paper in a clear way. By killing her off you get to see all of that in its absence, you can really strengthen the character by taking it out, it will just help you bring her more to life as a character. Obviously she will haunt your narrator, that's the story you are trying to tell here, so I wouldn't feel bad about killing her at all. She'll Obi Wan Kenobi that shit and when you strike her down she will become stronger than you ever imagined. The contrast between her, the real her who lives and breathes in the story and makes your protagonists life happy, and the she who exists in your protagonists mind, the idealized Goddess who was robbed from him will help develop her into a stronger character no matter how strong she already is.

And so for a cause of death, what would be the most poignant? What would tie in well to the other themes of the book? Slow cancer? HIV from bad blood? Getting hit by a Bus? Shot, at random, in an innocent bystander situation that your protag witnesses and which deeply troubles him? Abducted and murdered by forces unknown? There are so many ways to die, and each has its own special flavor. You should have enough written at this point to have an idea which flavor will go the best to bring out the ideas you want, to properly compliment the overall story.

Good luck man.

A trick I have for writer's block overall though, if you are still having trouble, is to try to change mediums. I'll write some poetry, or draw some pictures, when I'm nervous or having a bad day but still can't get focused enough to write I pull out some of my verses and rap loud and angry into my microphone until the neighbors complain. And all of it is working on the creative process, I draw pictures of the characters, I write poems that touch on these themes that I am working out and thinking of, and when I come back to it I am refreshed, I don't feel cooped up in this task, but I am still mindful of it, and since I've been looking at it from different angles and developing different perspectives on the ideas I can get back to work and really hit it with a fresh eye.

David Shepherd's picture
David Shepherd from shepherdsville, KY is reading Idoru by William Gibbson December 8, 2011 - 5:27am

I have considered shooting her Because for the story it has to be sudden and brutal, I'm putting it at a point where it will just be shocking and unthinkable. But everytime I put it down on paper I can't recreate the sense of suddenness and loss I need to. I'm sure I'll ind the right wording with enough trial and error though. I often write poetry to help inspire me butthis story is just different somehow. I feel like it's the only important thing I'll ever do and once it's done that's all I've got. I think I'll just bull through it though and work out everything else later.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin December 8, 2011 - 5:57am

Maybe jump ahead a little, write a couple scenes from further on without her, after she dies. Try to deal with the aftermath, and once you've reconciled yourself with that then this one trouble scene should come naturally.

I mean, I really wouldn't worry about writing the book one chapter at a time building on itself sequentially, work on that sort of stuff in post-production, for now, you just need to keep momentum and if this scene is stalling you out then you need to come at it from the other side and wait until you are comfortable with the events from an abstract angle (by dealing with afteraffects) before worrying too much about the specifics. To me, those seem like your two best options for actually getting it done (I'm not saying don't do other things first to get really comfortable doing this sort of grisley work) either splurge right here and now or skip over it outright and come back later.

Either way you will be coming back later. And for a first draft you don't have to write anything good at all for that scene, I remember I didn't even start doing manuscript exchanges (e-ghetto-workshopping) until something like my fourth draft. You are going to re-read and edit nearly to the point of re-writing virtually everything that you have right now at least once (probably more). Sometimes when I was stuck on a scene I would ignore it, sometimes I would just write down ANYTHING that was relevent about it, build on it tiny bit by tiny bit, until one day, after you've done a lot of the supporting work later in the story so that this death can and needs to carry all the full weight, at that point you will be prepared and you will have taken all the time you needed to think about it without terribly fucking up your deadlines.

I know exactly how you feel man, I felt the same way. I spent like 2 years trying to sell Citizens to the traditional publishing community and I ended up self publishing it. Why? Because I couldn't get anything else done. That story was, at the time, to me, the most important achievement of my life and I was going to give it a final chapter (in the figurative sense of being published in any way shape or form) because I wanted to work on something else and I could not stand to leave my firstborn abandoned in such a way. It was me, it was so much of me brought to life and put into play that I needed it to be available for people to read if I was really done with it. And after all the years I spent editing it, trying to get it so tight as a story that no one would dare reject it, I felt I had done my best and that as far as freshman novels go I had a lot of reasons to be proud, but I needed to work on other things and I just couldn't touch them or work on them until I had finally gotten it done. I understand the obsession, and again man, good luck. If you need a beta reader I'm always around, making some sort of feeble effort to be more helpful than just longwinded and self absorbed.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind December 8, 2011 - 9:48am

I hate writer's block! Nothing is as frustrating. 

I do the best I can to avoid writer's block by writing the story out as a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. If I hit a block during the synopsis, I have to go back about three or four paragraphs to rewrite, but it isn't as bad as going back and rewriting three or four chapters. It's like realizing you took a wrong turn. Your legs are sore, your feet throb, and you're already fifteen minutes late. You don't want to turn around! By writing the synopsis chapter by chapter first, you're wrong turn is taken while your plotting your course on a map, not traversing the crunchy bits of a city.

but you're not having a problem with direction, right? You're having a problem with execution.

One thing you can try is opening another doc and writing the scene you want to write, but changing the characters' names. Treat them as strangers, disconnect yourself from them, change their physical descriptions if you must. Write out the scene without the pressure of making it the perfect destruction of Devin's soul, because it isn't Devin facing Quinton now--it's Thomas standing before Percy, and it isn't Emily bleeding from a gunshot wound, it's Julia. 

I haven't read your story, but if Devin is innocence where Quinton is malice, you may be thinking that Devin is limited by rules of good behavior. He isn't. He lost Emily to this smug, oily fellow who thinks he knows what's best for Devin. Devin can get angry--he can punch and kick and beat, but he wouldn't kill. He can scream and shout, but he might not curse. He can also fall victim to the crushing weight of his despair, only to remember something Emily told him--something Emily gave him, something that she offered that reminds him that he can still win this, even without her at his side, even with her blood on his clothes. He can shove this in Quinton's face, either then or much later when the ghost of her memory trickles in his thoughts, and he can defeat the evil that threatens to overcome him. 

I know how it is, writing a scene you've had built in the back of your mind only to find you may be lacking the right tools. The best thing I can recommend is to just write it, and spend some time rewriting it and rewriting it until you think you might have got it down. Then don't touch the scene for a few days, continue the story, and when you're able to, go back and see if the scene reads how you want it to. 
 

.'s picture
. December 8, 2011 - 10:17am

Kill your darlings. Kill your darlings. Kill your darlings. 

I like writing characters that I hate and disagree with. It makes it more challenging but it also make it more interesting to read. Also it makes it easier to kill off my secondary characters, though I do sometimes get attached to them. 

My problem when it comes to having writer's block I think is that I'm lazy. I could finish my novel but I procrastinate and I know that it's just easier to write notes and more character profiles in the outline for it then to actually write another full chapter. I'm satisfied with my growing outline, its an important part of it but still it makes for very slow progress. I can write and write and write, even when the writing starts to get a little under my standards. I don't have a problem with "I'm scared to write because I might screw it up" because editing can fix that. I just write and then decide to stop even though I have the story in my head because I get tired of writing and would rather check posts on litreactor or jack off or watch tv. 

My solution, my only solution will be to turn off my internet for a week. Maybe even my cell phone and have an affair with my type writer. This is harder than it sounds though. 

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter December 8, 2011 - 10:56am

Shed some personal pain into your story.  And by that I don't really mean that you should add autobiographical stuff in there, but just take a week off and spend some time on another hobby.  I usually craft if I'm in a block, and I put on some music from my past and reflect on that stuff, or character stuff.  I think the act of pausing the writing for the sake of getting the mind going again really helps.  It's not about the word count, it's about knowing where you're going to go. 

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. December 8, 2011 - 12:52pm

There is nothing wrong with adding sudden, unexpected death because thats how death is in real life. Think of someone you know who has died, didn't it feel sudden? You could have her die in a car accident, something where there is no one to blame but fate. That will disillusion your character to life and make him vulnerable to manipulation.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated December 13, 2011 - 12:59pm

Or you can kill them the other way, someone very obviously to blame for the slow painful brutal death.