Some Tricks For A Pantser With A Plot Roadblock

Sometimes we build up novels into these frightening bastions of culture and intellectual rigor.

It is better, I think, to remember that novels are, at bottom, fireside stories that we tell to pass the time.

It is just a story.

You can enjoy telling your story. The more fun you have telling a fireside yarn, the more fun your audience generally has hearing it.

Here is an example of the pantser’s typical roadblock, and what to do about it.

The Roadblock. Your characters refuse to do as they’re told. Sometimes, as you write, the words that present themselves to the tips of your fingers are NOT THE WORDS YOU PLANNED TO WRITE! This is genuinely alarming, but take comfort, storytellers. When your characters fight your intended words, it shows that you have got a live fish at the end of your storytelling hook, and live fish are what you are looking for.

What to do about it: If you have a character fighting for control of the story, you are coming up against a Real Topic.

Real Topics are submerged beliefs that you hold about the world around you; they are conclusions you have drawn about Reality, based on your automatic absorption of life.

When you have a character who is pushing you towards the exploration of a Real Topic, kneel down and offer up your first-born manuscript to the Gods of Writing.

But seriously, Real Topics are what writing stories is all about. Real Topics are how you write novels that connect deeply to the human heart.

When you are writing about a Real Topic, you are taking your lived experience, and putting it into concrete language.

This creates a potent cocktail of emotional storytelling that hooks your reader.

You really, really want to be writing about Real Topics.

Unfortunately, when you set out on purpose to write about a Real Topic, you often end up moralizing or making StorySermons, which are not fun to read.

Let your headstrong character reveal your Real Topics to your readers. Go along for the ride. Let your fingers tap out the words, one by one, that your character presents to you.

When you have a live fish on your hook, believe me, the words will present themselves to you. You just have to choose whether or not to write down the words that are presented to your fingers.

Be a smart yarn-spinner. Take the proffered gift. Write down the words that are given to you, and enjoy the ride that your subconscious has formulated for your readers.

It is possible, and even relatively common, to have an entire set of books lying, undisturbed and undiscovered, in the back corner of your brain. When you find a character who fights your control, such a completed story will bleed, word by word, out of your fingertips, if you embrace the process.

Let it happen. Your readers will thank you for it. Also, money, etc.