On Storytelling

Sometimes, writing doesn’t come easily. You may know what the block is, or you may just be staring at the page without a clue how to move forward.

I don’t believe in requiring inspiration, or ‘the muse’, but also feel that not everything is made better by forcing yourself to write rubbish into your manuscript. At the end of the day, the only way a book is written, is by writing the damn book. However, there are some ways to connect with the story; to let the aspects percolate in the mind that don’t involve you to forcibly write absolute tripe you already know you’ll delete tomorrow.

However, there’s another aspect that can block us: connecting with our storytelling side.

Chuck Wendig wrote in a recent post: “Just as the stakes for your characters should be raised and complicated, twisted and transformed, so should you view your own stakes as storyteller.”

But if the story isn’t ‘happening’, how can we move forward as storytellers?

Stories in Motion

I find playing video games helpful. I’ve recently begun Elder Scrolls Online, and enjoying making those creative storytelling decisions with the already-provided narrative, characters and setting. There are limits, of course, but it allows me to flex those muscles without any pressure.

Equally, I’ve returned to reading: both other writer’s blogs; pondering how I would make the decisions they talk about in my own work, and also in reading fiction. I’m about 75% through The Vagrant by Peter Newman. It’s the one book I have on my phone, so only read it when stuck in queues or lunch-breaks at my desk; but lately I’ve picked it up a bit more; looking at the word choice and thinking about the point-of-view switches and general plot lines.

I’ve also been contributing to some of the Twitter hashtags. I took part in #WIPJoy and am part-way through #FebWIP. The aim of these prompts is to get you thinking about your work-in-progress (WIP). Today’s prompt for WIPJoy asks the main character of my story “What’s one thing you’d change about yourself?”

Using Skeletal as my story of focus, I know my main character wishes she weren’t afraid of water. It would have helped her to escape safely, and she wouldn’t now be separated from her best friend. This reminds me of key elements, and has led to little epiphanies about how the plot and my character could interact.

And finally, talking with people / listening to conversation is a great reminder. When a colleague tells me of their weekend, I think about their word choice and intonation – how are they keeping my attention in this story?

Storytellers may not always write, but there are constant opportunities for us to connect with stories and those who live them.

How do you re-connect with stories when your WIP isn’t working out?

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