People don’t ask me many questions. In my current incarnation as a grumpy old man I must turn people off, and they wince when they see me coming. Sure, my kids ask me questions – especially my son – but not many others do. Maybe it has something to do with me being a smart-arse and not everything having a simple yes/no answer. Possibly.
Okay, yes it is.
But one thing I do get questions on – especially from those who only know me from the online world – is writing.
And I received this PM in a writing website last week. I was going to respond there and let this person know what I think, but I thought suddenly – why not write about it here where more people can see it? Huh? Huh? Why not? Huh?
I often feel like I want to write and I’ve got all these ideas bouncing around but I just can’t get them down on paper. Have you got any thing you can help me with to get my ideas into order?
So, what I’m guessing, is not so much writer’s block as writer’s confusion. She wants something to help her get her thoughts into some sort of order so they come out on the page in a story or poem or essay or whatever it is she writes.
So I got to thinking.
Now these ideas could also be used to help conquer a minor bout of writer’s block as well as sorting the mental head-space. They could also be used as writing exercises, or as ways to clarify an idea that’s struggling to come out. They also make great writing exercises for classrooms, etc.
They work for me, so… Yeah. (Wow! What words! Well done, former teacher!)
1. Use a song
This is one I know others use as well because I’ve appeared in two books which use this as the basis of their short stories within. The idea is, take a song with lyrics, listen to it, and see what sort of a story the song brings to your mind and then just write it down.
The idea is: see the pictures in your head and then write what you see. It doesn’t have to relate to the song as it was written – the images and story can be literally anything. To give an example: the song ‘This Ole House’ by Shakin’ Stevens from 1981 or thereabouts. I was listening to this song in the car and, at some traffic lights, I had the weirdest image come to mind. I didn’t let it go, got home and wrote the story.
What was it about? Zombies. One of my few zombie apocalypse stories, and it was based on a cheery, jaunty rock song. Of course. Let’s not ask how a writer’s mind works, hmm?
2. Write some dialogue
Sit down somewhere public and listen to what people are saying. I mean, don’t look like you’re listening, pretend to read or write or something, because people get funny when you lean over their shoulder and take notes. Trust me on this one.
Anyway, take a few of these snippets of dialogue and just write a conversation between two people. Just the words they say, no descriptors, no he said or she said type bits – just the spoken words.
It’ll do one of three things – give you an idea for a script (theatre, movie, TV, radio, who cares), give you an idea for a more extensive story, or give you something to write to get your thoughts in focus.
And you never know – you could even come up with an all-dialogue story. It won’t sell (and I’ve tried) but it’ll be something else for your imaginary writer’s portfolio.
3. Fill a page with words
Throw the computer away – this is something you need to do by hand.
Start with a pen and a blank piece of not lined paper. Now write words at random on the paper. In any direction, change fonts or writing styles. Nothing needs to make sense – it’s better if it doesn’t, really – and just fill the page with whatever you want. But they need to be words – real words, not made up words. They can be from any language, but they must be actual wordy words.
Words are, after all, the writer’s main tool of the trade.
Anyway, after you’ve filled a page with all sorts of random words, start again on a lined piece of paper, writing the words in lines, and see if the randomness has actually sparked something else, and this time if it wants to stop being random, let it. Now you’re writing a whatever it is you write.
4. Link the pictures
Take any three pictures. They can be from anywhere, and it’s better if they’re randomly selected and don’t have anyone you know in them.
What I recommend is putting about two dozen pictures cut out from magazines (or newspapers – they are still a thing, right?) or printed off the computer of different things – not just two dozen pictures of swimsuit models – into a large envelope, and then pick 3 at random. Don’t put any back, just pull three out and go for it.
Now take these three pictures and try to write something, no matter how long or short, that links them all together into one, coherent whole. To make it more challenging, make sure the things are not what you would normally write about.
5. Dictionary roulette
Place a dictionary in front of you. A real one, not one of those new-fangled electronic website ones. One made of paper with a cover and pages and that sort of thing.
Next, close your eyes, then open the book at random and poke your finger down. Whatever the word is of the entry you are touching, write it down. Then do it again. And again. And again, until you have five words. Now try and link them all in a writing of some description. It doesn’t have to be a novel, but even a paragraph or four lines of poetry or something like that – that’s all you need to do.
Now, all of these can lead to something longer or they can just remain something small. But these little things could actually help break that mental impasse.
1. from conservativehaven.com 2. from blog.compete.com 3. from evilstaring.com 4. from morguefile.com 5. from express.co.uk 6. from sbnation.com 7. from blogs.kansas.com 8. from ddmcdn.com 9. from my own files... yeah, I did this 10. from morguefile.com 11. from topnews.net.nz