5 Ways To Unstick A Story
One of the worst parts about trying to write a story is getting stuck. It happens to everyone at some point. You see the scene that you want to write, but the words aren’t coming. If they are coming, nothing sounds right. Sometimes, you have a scene that you’re trying to add, but it doesn’t make any sense in the narrative. If any of these things have ever happened to you, I might have a solution! These five things are my go-to methods for unsticking a story, and I think they might help someone else.
1. Get to know your characters.
For me, the characters are the most important part of any story, and that’s often why I get stuck. It doesn’t make sense why the characters are reacting that way, or I don’t understand how I can make the scene mean something to them. The best way to get around that problem is by stepping back and getting to know the characters I’ve created. Why are they on this journey? What matters to them most in this scene? Which character do they have chemistry with? Those questions usually are enough to get the story moving again if it’s a character problem.
2. Ask yourself what could go wrong.
No one wants to read a story where everything is easy for your characters to overcome. At least, I don’t. Writers have a tendency to be nice to their characters, giving them easy conflicts to resolve and obstacles to pass because we’re attached to them. Not me. If I’m stuck in a boring moment with my stories, I ask myself one question: What could go wrong? Typically, the worst answer to the question is what ends up in the story. I don’t want my characters to have it easy, which helps me get going in the right direction again.
3. Skip to the next scene.
Sometimes the best thing to do for a story that’s stuck and doesn’t seem to go anywhere is skipping to the next scene. It gives you a chance to step away from what you’re stuck on and see what happens next. For me, laying out the next scene will eventually lead me to the missing elements in the one I was stuck on. When my head’s clear and I see what’s going on, I’m able to go back and finish what I started. Usually, it ends up better than whatever it was I was working on prior.
4. Make an outline.
Outlining is easily the most boring part of writing a story and everyone does it differently. I am a meticulous outliner for all of my stories because I like having a map to follow. Now, I don’t recommend my outlining process to everyone because it’s tedious. However, a stuck story can benefit from a basic outline. It’s easier to see where a story’s going if it’s laid out. Maybe outlining your story, even if it’s just the next paragraph, can help get your story moving again.
5. Write a short, but connected story.
Worst Case Scenario: None of these methods work and your story is still stuck in the same place it was before. In those extreme cases, it’s easier to set it aside and leave the project to simmer for a bit. I don’t like doing that, especially if I’m still in the writing mood. Instead of leaving the project altogether, I’ll work on some short stories that are connected to the big story. Maybe it’s a character’s backstory, or what they do after the journey’s over. Either way, it helps get your mind off the problem at hand but you stay connected to the story itself.