I assume most of you are like me…you get to a great place in your novel and then WHAM! your brain shuts like a steel door to a vault. You can’t think what your characters should do next. Ya got nuthin’!
This has happened quite a lot recently (I have a lot of other stuff on my brain) so I thought a little structure exercise might be what the doctor ordered to loosen those little synapses up. In class last year, we had to write a story where the first word of each sentence was the next sequential letter in the alphabet. So the first sentence had to start with the letter, “A,” the next with the letter, “B,” etc. In other words, an alphabetical 26-sentence story.
I found this exercise to be incredibly helpful to get me thinking about things in a new way. I picked a scene in my book I was having trouble with and tried to write it using this structure. The result wasn’t necessarily something I could plop verbatim into my story, but it was a great idea generator and it even resulted in some tangy dialogue. If nothing else, it gets your mind off your story problems for a little while and allows you to have some fun with the characters.
Below is a story I came up with for our class assignment last year. Unfortunately, the ones I did for my current WIP just aren’t suitable for public consumption, but this one is. Warning: Rated PG-13 for language.
Amy huffed, marched across the kitchen, and carelessly tossed the pork chops, plate and all, onto the table. Bradley sat and watched in stunned silence as the pork nearly slid off the plate, then raised an eyebrow at her.
“Deal with it, okay?” Amy said, returning to the stove to get the potatoes. “Everyone else on a budget eats chicken,” she said over her shoulder, then turned around, wielding a wooden spoon like a sword. “Fuck chicken, okay? God made pork cheap, so we eat pork.”
“Hey, relax, babe,” Bradley said, hands up in mock surrender as Amy put down the spoon and picked up the potatoes. “I get that you don’t like chicken, but if I eat any more chops I’ll turn into a pig.”
“Just what you deserve, you two-timing lump of shit,” Amy said, slamming the potatoes onto the table.
Knitting his brows together, Bradley gave her a look that said, Excuse me?
“Last night I heard you trading phone numbers with that girl who lives across the hall. Made me so mad I wanted to toss your shit right out the window.”
“No, sweetheart, you have it all wrong,” he said, shaking his head and reaching for her.
“Oh sure, that’s what you say to all your girlfriends, right?”
Pulling her into his lap and holding her tight, Bradley said, “Love, I didn’t get her number, but her boss’s phone number, and I gave her mine to give to him.”
Quietly, Amy said, “I don’t believe you.”
“Really, I promise,” he said giving her a squeeze. “She works for Mr. Buffet.”
“The rich guy or the musician?”
Using Amy’s shoulder as a wall, Bradley banged his head against it a couple times, chuckled, then said, “The musician, babe. Veronica, our neighbor, works for Jimmy Buffet and he’s looking for a new percussionist and she’s heard me practicing…thinks I’d be a good addition.”
“Well,” Amy said, then, looking down, took Bradley’s hands into her own and asked, “but what’s wrong with his current drummer?”
“X-rays show a severely broken hand is what Veronica told me.”
“Yikes,” Amy said in a meek voice, then smiling tentatively at Bradley, squeezed his hands and asked, “So…this could be your big break?”
“‘Zactly,” he replied, and keeping his eyes locked on Amy’s, brought her knuckles to his lips for a tender kiss.
I know, I know…it’s not great, but it sure was fun to write. So, what sorts of things do you do to shake your brain up?