We all occasionally reach a spot in the story where we don’t know what to do, how to get the characters past a certain obstacle.
If it lasts a while, people call it writer’s block. So don’t let it last.
In Poggibonsi, the tricky spot was trying to think up a way for Mike’s wife to take him back after he cheated on her. I was stuck for a long time on that. There was no rational reason for her to do it, and yet I know lots of spouses forgive a cheating husband or wife. But I couldn’t think of what that conversation went like or how he’d earn her trust back.
In The Water castle, we have a big confrontation with several characters and a resolution need to be created. Gina’s mom finally goes to help Gina and… what, exactly?
Similarly, Jenny was stuck on her big battle scene, so I rolled out these two examples for her, as I am for you, because she thought she had to solve the problem alone and that nobody else has these issues. Certainly not real authors with actual books being sold.
But, okay, we all have those issues on occasion. What do we do about them?
Usually by telling somebody – in this case Jenny, one of my critique partners – about the problem, I have to clarify things so they can understand. That helps me clarify things for myself. So, simply by explaining the problem to another person, it unravels the mystery to my own brain.
And by doing that, I almost always have a few ideas of where things might head, and why they can’t head that way.
Then, lo and behold, as I walk them through my dilemmas, usually one answer remains as the only plausible path. And my dilemma is no more.
Other times, I am hearing the problem from a fellow author and I’m providing suggestions. They may not take any of my ideas, but the sheer act of rejecting solutions kind of implies to their own brain that they have something better. Certainly they have a better feel for their story. And just as often, an answer is derived.
It’s like in Shakespeare In Love, when Geoffrey Rush’s character (Philip Henslowe) spoke with Hugh Fennyman, the money lender for the play. The sponsor asked how all the issues would be surmounted and the play could open, and Henslowe basically said, “I don’t know, but it always does.”
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
That’s my answer.
Talk the problem out with another author. An answer will present itself.
I don’t know how, but it always does.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.