You know the feeling, you’re staring at your draft, stuck on a scene, not knowing how to move forward, or even if there is a way. This section of your outline says “stuff?? things/!?!” in lieu of actual plotty bits, and you’re just like, “Thanks, past me.” Your characters linger on the page, unsure of where to go to next but your brain is fried and you’re just… stuck.
Here are five writing exercises to help get those creative juices flowing again.
- Take a scene you’ve already written and write it from a different character’s perspective. What does the antagonist think about this? Are they even there? What if they had some sort of crystal ball to see what was going on, what would they think and how would they react? (Even if crystal balls don’t exist or work in your story, imagine that they do, for this one particular scene– for reasons.) Did you write a love confession from one protagonist to another? What does the other person think about this? What’s their thought process?
- Take your main characters and strand them on a desert island. Just… imagine it. How do they get along? What would they bring with them, if they were allowed three items? Who would they want with them? What do they dream of or hope for when they return to their world?
If your characters start off in a desert island situation/ post apocalypse / dystopia / etc, strand them in a modern coffeeshop, and then you have the fun of seeing them figure out the ins and outs of customer service and how to make the perfect latte.
- Write a to-do list– not for you, but for your protagonist. Pick one day in your novel, what would they put on this list? What do they need to do? To remember? To ignore? What do they not put on this list? Do they have goals for the next year? The next five years?
- Write a scene from before the beginning or after the end. If you’re stuck where you are, skip somewhere else and try your hand at writing a scene before the story begins, maybe a moment from your character’s childhood or a scene post-resolution where you can imagine what your protagonists’ lives are like. Trying to figure out how your characters have dealt with the events of your story and the effects afterward is a good way to figure out how you want to get from where you are now to those scenes in the future.
- Take your favorite song of the moment, or your karaoke favorite (you have one, you know you do… that song you can’t help but belt along to in the shower, the car…) and now imagine your main character singing this song. Direct a music video in your head with them as the star. Is this ridiculous? Very much so. But it also opens the door to all the raw emotion that comes with music– which song would be your character’s karaoke choice, if they had one? Or what song describes their personality best? And aside from the fun questions about your characters you get to answer through music, it’s a great mental image to have, especially when you need to see your character doing something silly or to conjure up when you’re down about your story.
Even if you think you’re not working “actively” on your story, continuing to write when you’re stuck, even going in another direction or writing backstory for characters, will add to your confidence in moving forward in the narrative. Take a break, write something silly or fun, and get back to your story whenever you’re ready.
Other ideas you can try if you’re looking to get outside of writing are to do activities that help focus and create a space for you to think more clearly about your project. Reading books in your genre or setting up your writing space are other great ways to keep that creative energy flowing but activates a different area of your brain so you’re not too overwhelmed by the task at hand.