Have you ever reached a point in your story where your characters stop talking to you, the plot stalls, and youíre banging your head against the keyboard trying to figure out how to fix the problem? You try to push through it, sketching out the plot points or letting your mind wander while you clean the house. But nothing works. So, what do you do after your bathroom is sparkling and you still havenít come to a solution?
Kill a character. Or, if that isnít practical for your story, burn something important to the ground.
It sounds violent, and it is, and thatís the point. A death puts pressure on your hero and heroine, compelling them to act, and character action is what drives the story. Depending on who dies, your hero or heroine may be motivated to seek revenge, to solve a mystery, to help others deal with the tragedy, or to hide the body. The course of action your characters choose will be influenced by their ultimate goals, but forcing them to make a decision will push them and the story in a new direction.
A dead body is also a great opportunity for conflict. Based on the hero and heroineís goals, the hero may want to hide the body, while the heroine might want to call the police. This clash will create tension between them that you can use throughout the rest of the story. Also, a stiff in the story will put external pressure on the hero and heroine from either the authorities or the villain. A friend of mine who writes paranormal romance likes this method, and often uses it when she is stuck. Her paranormal characters are trying to evade detection, so when theyíre caught with a dead body, it creates all kinds of problems for them to deal with.
Death can be a powerful tool for characterization. How a hero or heroine reacts to a death will reveal who they are, and will indicate whether or not you need to do more character development. If your hero simply steps over his friendís dead body, or doesnít take much time to mourn, you may need to reexamine your hero to understand why heís so callous. Or, if itís appropriate to the story, the heroís callous reaction can be used to illustrate his growth. If your hero reacts with more emotion to a death later in the story, then it will show how much he has grown and changed.
If killing characters isnít your thing, or doesnít work for your book, then burn something down. A big fire in your story will push you out of your comfort zone, and make you take a hard look at whether or not your carefully created plot is actually working. As writers, itís easy to fall in love with our plots. After all, weíve worked hard on them and they seem so neat and tidy on spreadsheets or note cards. However, once we start writing, our characters donít always follow the path weíve laid out for them, or, if youíre a pantser like me, they stop telling you where they want to go. As a result, you may spend precious time writing scenes youíll probably end up cutting as you try to force your characters in a certain direction. Instead of forcing things to work, try lighting a fire under your characters, literally, and shocking them and you into in an entirely new direction.
I once had a historical heroine whose story got stuck in her colonial house. I wrote scene after scene with her in this house, hiding the hero from the villain, helping the hero recover from a gunshot wound, and in the end boring myself to death. I didnít know how to get the story moving. Then I realized that the house had become a crutch for both the character and me. As a result, I decided to burn her house down. The emotional and physical repercussions of suddenly finding my heroine homeless got her story and my creativity moving. An author friend of mine who writes romantic suspense finds burning things down, or blowing things up, to be very helpful for getting her hero and heroine on the move. Like a dead body, a fire can increases the stakes, provide conflict and move the plot forward.
If these suggestions seem too violent, or you arenít ready to commit murder or arson, then maybe just the threat of death or fire is all you need to spark your creativity. For instance, thereís nothing like the drama of an approaching army or the suspense of a crazy killer chasing the heroine to put pressure on your characters and motivate them to act. Just make sure that whatever drama you choose is intense, so that it ups the stakes for your hero or heroine and keeps the reader hooked.
Choosing to kill a character or burn something down is up to you, and isnít always the right option for every story. However, the next time your WIP hits a sticking point, I challenge you to step out of the comfort zone of your preconceived plot and consider the more dramatic options. By doing something powerful and unexpected in your story, youíll create conflict, character growth and, on another level, author development. Surprising yourself and your characters with a traumatic event might be just the thing to snap you out of your writerís block, and get you successfully to ďThe End.Ē
A dedicated history and film buff, Georgie Lee loves combining her passion for Hollywood, history and storytelling through romantic fiction. She began writing professionally at a small TV station in San Diego before moving to Los Angeles to work in the interesting but strange world of the entertainment industry. When not writing, she enjoys reading non-fiction history and watching any movie with a costume and an accent. Please visit www.georgie-lee.com to learn more about Georgie and her books.
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Mask of the Gladiator by Georgie Lee
Now available from Carina Press www.Carinapress.com
Rome, 41 AD
Livia Duronius is driven to seek out a gladiator after watching him triumph in the Colosseum. His touch arouses a sense of hope she hasn't felt since Rome fell under the tyrannical rule of Caligulaóand her late husband betrayed her. Though in danger of losing more than her heart, she vows to see him again, even after she learns her uncle has arranged her marriage to a senator.
Senator Titus Marius cannot resist indulging in a passionate encounter with the veiled woman who waits for him after the games, though he faces execution if his true identity is discovered. Bound by honor to wed another, and embroiled in a plot to free Rome from madness, he never expects to see the mystery woman again.
When the fates reunite them in the marriage bed, Titus vows to protect Livia at all costsóeven from the lecherous eyes of the emperor...
Mask of the Gladiator | Amazon | Nook