man with typewriter thinking about new novel

So, I suppose I will begin by letting a cat out of the bag. Not that this particular feline is trapped too tightly, mind you; but it has, on occasion, masqueraded as the elephant in the room.   Many, if not most prospective writers are born storytellers. Sergeant Friday would hate us because we rarely, if ever, stick to “just the facts, ma’am.” We love to recite even the simplest activity in narrative form. Whether it be grocery list or childhood trauma there must be action and there must be drama.

But what do you do when there is no story?

When you suffer a dearth of topic and are bereft of both hero and villain, the very act of writing can become an exercise in futility and a font of frustration. But do not fret, my intrepid scribe. There is hope. In fact, the more you work the more you will realize that some of your best work will begin with a party cloudy weather forecast.   But, you, of course, are interested in immediate help, yes? You are sitting there reading this and asking yourself (really asking me)…But what can I do to banish writer’s block? What sort of writing prompts can I keep in my utility belt to pull out whenever Writer’s Block threatens to strike.   Well, here is a proven technique you can employ as a creative writing prompt:

Clear your mind.

Clearing your head may seem antithetical when one is trying to think of SOMEthing, ANYthing to write about, but despite appearances, it works fabulously. Remember what I said earlier about being a born storyteller? Well, just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too do writers abhor a blank page. So, step away from your computer (bring your “idea notebook”) and find a quiet spot. Then sit back and let your mind slowly clear of anything and everything. Don’t worry, you subconscious knows about your assignment and will continue to work overtime. Then, slowly allow a character to form. Now, examine that character. What is he or she doing? Who or what is that action impacting? What may be this character’s possible motivations for doing these things? Where is this action taking place? Good, now write all this stuff down in your notebook.

Then, for the second time, allow your mind to clear.

But what about that other guy, you ask. Don’t worry about him. He will be fine. Just allow your mind to clear. Now, allow a second character to form and ask yourself all those other questions again.

Now, take a moment and look at your notes. Particularly the motivations. This will help you determine which of your characters is the hero and which is the villain. Suddenly your curious writer’s brain must know more. Who are these people? Why are they connected? What is the tension between them? Let your imagination run wild.

Then, when you come to a point where you have learned something about one or both of these characters that you do not understand, it’s time to go into research mode.


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