Break Down the Wall

I’ve mentioned before a technique for breaking through writer’s block (or writer’s uncertainty about how to move forward in a scene): shaking things up by making your character do something other than what you thought they were doing.

I love this technique. It’s a reminder of the control we have over our fictional worlds, and a reminder to try different things, be creative, shake up the status quo. Just because you invented the status quo doesn’t mean it should stand. You might decide you liked the scene as it was, but it never hurts to play around.

I was introduced to the technique by a writing teacher of mine. I think I may be making some of this up, but I believe he said that one of his students had written a story in which a character is confronted by a wall. The character turns around. The end.

The teacher suggested that the writer have the character do something else, just to see how that might change the story. The student pushed back. The character couldn’t do anything else. There was a wall in his way.

Hoo boy. I’m sure you can think of other ways to go. If you’re game, don’t read any further. Now, jot down a list of stuff you think the character could do.

Wasn’t that fun? In case you were stumped, here are some things I think the character could do instead of just turning heel:

1) Climb over the wall

2) Go around the wall

3) Try to go around the wall and fail

4) Break through the wall

5) Try to break through the wall and fail

6) Think about doing 1-5, then change his or her mind and turn around after all

7) Turn around, change his or her mind, and then do any of 1-5

See? Writer’s block, get out of our way!

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