Toolkit for writing fiction

It’s midnight on November 1st and, even though it’s in the middle of the week and you have to go to work tomorrow, you stayed up to write your first sixteen hundred word quota for NaNoWriMo.

You’ve thought out a dozen characters in your mind and you have a protagonist who is a thinly-veined version of you–except better looking and has a better love life. You have a list of scenes that you can’t wait to pound out on the keyboard.

You are ready to go as your fingers tremble over the keyboard. The grandfather clock in the hallway strikes twelve bongs. Finally, NaNoWriMo is here.

And you can’ t think of a freaking thing to write.

Grab a tool from your fiction writing toolkit

Okay, your creativity may or may not dry up at some point during National Novel Writing Monster–I mean Month–but if it does, use one of these tools to see if you can fix the writer’s block:

  • Action-start with a verb, whether it’s a physical or mental action, and build your sentence around it.
  • Dialogue-try to use action and dialogue as much as possible. Can you believe some people skip narrative summary and just read the dialogue?
  • Interior monologue-if you have a particularly introspective character, show the “conversation” inside her or his head.
  • Interior emotion-take a moment to show the reader what your character is feeling on the inside. This is especially effective if the character is acting one way on the outside, but feeling the opposite on the inside. Same with interior monologue.
  • Description-A sentence or two of description is just right. Too much spice ruins the dish.
  • Flashback-something in your story may cause the character to have a memory pop up. Combine this with figurative language, and it fits smoothly in your story. For example here’s a flashback in the form of a metaphor: “The perfume she wore reminded John of the fragrance of jasmine in the air of his grandmother’s backyard where he lived during the summers as a boy.”
  • Narrative Summary-This is the “tell” of “show don’t tell.” Telling gets demonized, but it’s actually important. It’s not all bad; sometimes it’s necessary. Most of the time, a story could be three-fourths show and one-fourth tell. Just my opinion.  Use it along with the other tools in your toolkit and you’ll be fine. Here’s a good article on narrative summary.

Mix it up, baby

So, if you get blocked during NaNoWriMo, pick up the appropriate tool and use it. If you’re not sure which one to use, go “eeny-meeny, miney-moe” and pick one at random and see what happens. It might just be the writing enema you need.

Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to switch from the toolkit metaphor.

View my Consortium SF Series at Amazon.

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