Friday, March 25, 2011

Someone's Gotta Die...

It's happened to all y'all at least once, I'm sure. You get stuck, wondering which fork in the road to take to escape your sagging middle. I've been able to lie to myself for a few months, blame the lack of progress on my WiP on revisions for Evangeline, when in truth, I had no idea how to make the middle of my WiP match up to the end I have in mind.

Until I talked it through with my husband and a friend. 

Normally when people in real life ask me how my writing is going, I just tell them I'm revising something old and working on something new. But this time, I mentioned how it had been a long time since I'd worked on my WiP, how I didn't know what to do next. My husband, bless his heart, says, "Kill someone."

At first I resisted, but as I thought about it, a new fork in the road unrolled before me: something I didn't want to write, something I knew would break my heart to do, but that makes sense in the grand scheme of things. 

Usually my M.O. in this situation is "add a new character", but I already had a large cast, and didn't want to add to the confusion. But taking a character away, particularly one that the reader has developed an emotional attachment to, works even better to add conflict and ramp up emotional tension. It just leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

I've often been averse to killing a character for motivational purposes, i.e., revenge. Particularly if that death provides the set-up for a character to go on some bullet-spraying killing spree, or become the next Green Lantern, or whatever; even more so if that character is a woman whose death serves the sole purpose of catapulting the hero into action. Believe it or not, this is a common trope in comics, and is referred to (mostly by women who read comics) as "fridging". 

Sorry. Tangent.

But anyway, I think this time, the death will be meaningful, and feel like it occurs naturally in the plot rather than feeling contrived. Sadly, now that I'm planning this death, all the other pieces seem to be falling into place.

Do you have any tried and true methods of getting around your writer's block? Or to make sure you don't have sagging-middle-itis? I'd love to hear them!


Shannon O'Donnell said...

Believe it or not, one of my main strategies is to talk about it with my husband! :-)

Magan said...

I think it's always hard to kill a character, especially when you're grown fond of them...or you could be Suzanne Collins and just kill of those characters after we fall in love with them.

When I get stuck I watch some TV or listen to music and hope that sparks a new scene. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't.

Good luck!

Cynthia Lee said...

Your post made me think about all the Wolverine girlfriends that have met with tragic and horrific deaths over the past 30 or so years. Jean Grey even died a few deaths.

Whenever I'm stuck, I like to go for a long walk, listen to my IPod and try to empty my mind. Sometimes something will bubble up and if it doesn't - I'm usually too tired by the end of the walk to care. ;)

Krispy said...

LOL, your husband's advice sounds like my and Alz's mantra when it's Nanowrimo. Don't know what to do? Plot getting bogged down? Bored? Stuck? KILL SOMEONE.

I usually don't have enough main/supporting character types around to do that. So usually, it's a random person or I have to invent someone to kill.

Melissa said...

I was stuck in the middle of my WiP and I tried the "kill a character" method. It worked!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Now I wish I had a husband again, and I was getting along just fine, darn it! :)
I killed some very nice characters in my last novel, but I don't think I can kill anyone in my fairy tale. I'll have to come up with something devastating sans death, I think.

Icy Roses said...

Middle-itis is the worst! I don't know what to tell you. I usually just work through it, hating everything along the way. Good luck!

Jade said...

Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I just thought that would be dramatic since I don't know which character you're knocking off.)

But I'm glad the pieces are falling into place, even if it means I'll be crying at some point!

Theresa Milstein said...

My husband, bless his heart, says, "Kill someone."

That made me laugh.

I know what you mean. I've had clear scenes, but not known other parts. Sometimes I write through them, but other times I mull them over until inspiration strikes.

Right now, I'm working towards and end that's only partially developed. And I'm thinking something similar to your husband's advice.

Nisa said...

I'm not sure there is a tried and true method. I would think it's based solely on the unique story you're telling. I'm glad you found your way out of the idea drought though!