Overcoming Writer’s Block: Abby’s Process

Abby Clements has been a fellow of the WNY Young Writers’ Studio for four years. During this time, we’ve learned a great deal from her about reflective practice (more on that to come). Today, she shares her thoughts about writer’s block and the thoughtful way she goes about overcoming it. Thanks for sharing what you know with us, Abby! What do you think about her suggestions? How do you generate great ideas? Please share your thoughts below, and if you are a Studio writer or the parent of one, join us on our Ning!
While this may sound odd, I’ve found that wirter’s block is easily remedied by characters in a story. By having your main character obsess over cherry pie, your villian suddenly want that new CD that just came out, or letting your flattest character suddenly develop a talent for cooking lasagna, you introduce a plot twist that can take a story in all sorts of dierections. Of course, these examples are silly, but sometimes a seemingly silly detail- such as one of your characters loves to play video games- can suddenly flood your brain with new ideas. You realize that if this five-year-old hides in the computer room after lights out, he can overhear his parents talking about how they found out where the main character, wrongly framed for theivery, is hiding. You need to write all this down… and never tell your little brother where the idea came from. (And yes, I have written this story.)

 While writer’s block can be remedied by just looking around at your family or friends, stories can also be started that way. I have read several interviews where authors say they were writing a completely different book when, all of a sudden, they wrote in a minor character. Some dialouge would pass, and all of a sudden the writer would realize they didn’t know where the person came from, what their motives are, why they’re there. THe character becomes all important, and boom! the old book is thrown away, and a new one is started. This is how Alan Bradley, the author of the award-winning Flavia de Luce books, got his idea- he stumbled upon Flavia innocnetly sitting on a stool in her driveway.

Characters, to me, are the most improtant part of any story. Plot, setting, conflict… there ar many ways to think of ideas. Characters are mine. I will think of a person, or several people. I’ll give them hopes, dreams, fears, loves. I’ll fill out surveys for them. Ages, birhtdays, favorite things. They can have email accounts, or go on websites, or create odd sonnets. And suddenly they will become so real they need a story where they can play on paper, where the adjectives that take hours to find can stay forever. And that’s when I start writing.

One of my favrite main characters, a boy named Griffin, was developed by, as I said at the beginning, going to school. I wrote down a list of all my friends, then started listing traits. Funny, an inability to be serious, shy, outgoing to friends, likes to read, plays basketball, memorized the periodic table of elements, active, obliging, iamginative, exuberant, good at listening….. the list went on. And on. And on. And each trait was put under a name, so I remembered who they came from. Next, I took one element- eloquent- from my friend Julia. Every trait after that was easy- a word from this list, a phrase from this, and adjective from here. It was like making a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, except I was using traits instead of body parts. And the end creation was absolutely lovable to me- a mishmash of people I held dear.

I kept that list, and I use it often any time I need to develop a charcater, brand-new or old. I helps me think of everything to where the character lives to the  entire plot. But characters are just my way of thinking- I’d be interested to hear how else to come up with great ideas.

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