Share this article on Facebook
Finding That Light Bulb Moment in Fiction
by Kathryn Lay
When writing a story or novel, sometimes the most difficult
thing is keeping your piece from being average. I’ve been told that
a writer must dig deeper and not go with the first and easiest plot idea
or ending to a scene or problem. But until a recent accident while working
on a novel, I didn’t understand that there are ways to help find
those “A HA” moments that surprise you as a writer and will
hopefully surprise your reader.
If you want your fiction to rise above the average and get noticed by
an editor, try some of these exercises:
1. Write yourself into a corner. Sometimes the best way to write yourself
out of a corner is by writing your character or plot into one. Are you
having a difficult time with a scene or plot point? Is it keeping you
from finishing that story, chapter, or even a whole book? Try writing
the scene until you are stuck and there is no obvious place for your story
to turn. Think about that scene, see it in your head, see it in your characters
head. Don’t stop writing, just write with abandon and with no thought
about whether its good or not or whether it’ll work or not. Just
see where it leads.
While working on a new book that I was rewriting with an agents suggestions,
I found myself getting more and more frustrated with the average-ness
of the storyline. I was coming to an important arc in the story where
my main character would help the secondary character with a problem, thereby
solving his own problem. But I couldn’t figure out why he would
do this for this new kid in town. Finally, I just sat down and started
writing a scene that hadn’t been in the original plan. I came to
a place where I was hitting a dead end. I had no idea what to do next
so I walked away and just turned on some music, sat in a rocker and thought.
Then, when in my mind I saw my character showing up at his friends house
for the first time and a startling “What If?” shouted at me,
it nearly knocked me to the floor with excitement. I was shocked at the
possibility and suddenly the whole storyline began to fall together in
a deeper way.
2. Have your character journal his/her thoughts. One way to find a characters
deeper needs is to have your character journal. Not to be included in
the story or book, but for you to discover what your characters need or
want, to discover their past or their secrets. You may need to spend quite
a bit of time doing this before you find that you are really getting into
the head and voice of your character, but it may surprise you what you
learn that will help your story or send it into a new, and better, direction.
3. Reread your project or do an outline of your problem before going
to sleep. Sometimes when finding myself stuck on a storyline or an ending,
Ill reread what I’ve written so far just before going to bed. It
keeps it in my mind as the last thing before my mind rests and sometimes
as the first thing I think about when I wake up. Does it always result
in an answer? Not always, but there have been many times when I’ve
woken with a new thought on the problem.
Other times I’ve worked on an outline of the plot or the specific
problem my character is facing, adding several possible solutions, studying
it before I sleep. Why waste the subconscious, sleeping mind on dreams
about taking tests in your underwear or dialing the wrong number over
4. Question your characters needs, desires, motives, outer fears and
more importantly, their deeper fears that no one else knows or even they
wont admit out loud. Try interviewing your character, asking leading questions
concerning the story problem. Grill them like a private detective or lead
them into discovery like a psychologist.
5. Write your scene from another characters viewpoint to see how they
interpret your characters action. Sometimes a scene that is truly necessary
to your story just doesn’t want to fall together. Perhaps you can’t
decide how your character will react or how they should react. Take that
same scene and rewrite it from the viewpoint of a secondary character
or even a bystander who might not actually be in the scene for your story.
You may come away with a whole new perspective on the event and your character.
6. Write your characters biography when they were younger and before
this story in their life begins. When beginning a story, especially a
novel, writers often will create a biography or answer a series of questions
about their character. Most often it’s a current bio with a few
early childhood likes or dislikes thrown in. But if you really want to
know your characters motivations when they are 10, write about them at
age 6. Or if your character is middle-aged, write a little about their
life while in school. Were they popular? Teased? Athletic? Creative? If
your character is much older, what do you know about their life as a young
father or mother, an employee? What did they do to relax with their family
Writers block in the middle of a project can be discouraging and frightening.
Sometimes you need to walk away from the project to gain perspective on
the problem you are having. But other times, facing it head on in new
ways can help you find the answers that you and your characters are looking
for, answers that will make your heart race as you find new hope and excitement
for your story or book.
© Copyright 2006, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
Other articles by Kathryn Lay :
Check out the latest articles in
How to Promote Your Book BLOG
Find out what works.
Join the Writing for DOLLARS! group on Facebook.
Writing for DOLLARS!
is a publication of