The Cliff of Lost Stories
I’m no experienced writer, but here are a few things I’ve learnt so far.
You ever have that one idea for a story and it’s going to be great and you write it all out and brainstorm and you’re halfway through the first bit and –
BOOM. You’ve got nothing?
You just don’t know where it’s going, who your characters are and what the heckity peckity they’re supposed to be doing other than saving the world? Well some people call it writer’s block, but I don’t think it’s even that. It’s not that you can’t think of the next step, it’s that the story just hasn’t formed properly yet. It’s like sprinting across land until you reach a cliff that falls into the sea.
Some people stop here. They just don’t know what the story’s about anymore. It was just one idea they had, and it’s all used up now. They look down at the water, can’t see a way forward, and walk away. These stories become those unfinished little flies that clutter up your writing space and nag at the back of your mind that they could’ve become something more. And let me tell you, I have many, many little flies hanging around.
But something that has really helped me when I’m standing at the edge of that cliff is just asking questions. There are the ones like, What will happen next?, which are sometimes so big and broad my mind can’t comprehend them, so I bring it down some notches and narrow it down to 2 options. I ask something like, Would my character go left or right? Would they go into the forest, or run back to their parents? Would they wait and plan until the next day or go into it head on? Usually I don’t even know that yet, so I just chose one and go with it. Anything to get moving again. I continue like that, just doing a sort of eenie meenie miney mo until I’m on a roll again.
Another very useful thing to do with this is to find a friend and tell them the basis of your story. Once you’ve done that, if they’re a good friend and you ask them nicely, they can interrogate you about it and ask all those questions you don’t know the answer to. Just answer with the first thing that comes into your head. Spit out every weird and random thought you have about it and something is bound to come out good. Your friend might even give you some ideas.
If this doesn’t work, make a mind map. Or just get a blank piece of paper and blurt onto it every little thing you ever thought about the story. Sometimes an idea will just come to you and your pencil will just keep moving.
I don’t know about you, but these things have really helped my characters and I out of some tricky spots now and again. I hope they can do something for you too.
And if you like your half-finished story just the way it is (which is completely fine), why are you here for? Just sit back and enjoy the view.