Ah, writer's block — the bane of every writer's existence. We're tired of hearing about it, yet we still struggle with it. We're sick of looking up tips and strategies, but we still need them. At least, that's how I'm justifying starting yet another series of tips on conquering writer's block. I want to do a series of blog posts featuring unique approaches to getting out of that rut, because I'm sure I'm not the only one who's sick of being told to "just write something!" (That's not to say that BICHOK — Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard — isn't a reliable and necessary method for pulling yourself out of the writer's block ditch. It just isn't always that easy.)
So let's jump right in.
Method #1: Make the Ridiculous Plausible
Step one is to find a story or plot generator. I know, I know. These are ridiculous things, completely unhelpful, simultaneously random yet canned. But we can turn these eye-roll-inducing snippets of code into something motivational and fun.
So first, find your generator. The more ridiculous, the better. I personally really like this Seventh Sanctum one because you can sort by genre if you choose. Now, the key to this kind of exercise is to not allow yourself to be picky, because that will result in you spending an hour reading silly plot summaries instead of...you know. Writing. I usually set it to generate five stories, and I always work with the first five to appear (no pressing "generate" a million times until you get something that looks interesting!)
Now your task is to take each plot and turn it into something that sounds readable and believable. I like to do this through a quick, casual plot summary, the way I would tell a friend, but you are welcome to write opening scenes, back-of-book blurbs, character profiles, or whatever you choose. It's okay to eliminate or modify variables if you must, but try to stick to the provided plot enough that you're really working to make it plausible, rather than just removing the weird bits to create an easy premise.
Here's an example.
"The story is about an exorcist who has a crush on a crippled impostor. It takes place in a war-scarred kingdom on a war-scarred world artificially created by magic. The return of an ancient evil at regular cycles plays an important role in the story."
MC is an exorcist, part of a guild of exorcists who spend their lives training to defeat an ancient evil who attacks once every fifty years. Each major city/kingdom has their own guild of magic-users who essentially act as a militia solely to fight the ancient evil twice a century.
The world was magically terraformed to be a second-Eden, an intended utopian civilization, by skilled magic-users from an ancient, corrupt, dying world. Like all attempted utopias, this one failed. The whole planet is ravaged by war as hundreds of factions struggle to gain control of limited resources. Every time the ancient evil attacks, millions suffer, millions die, and what little peace was found is thrown into turmoil again as factions take advantage of the chaos to try and redraw borders and conquer vulnerable cities.
A new trainee arrives at the exorcist guild. Her entire left arm and left leg are blackened as if burned, and nearly unusable. She demonstrates great skill in exorcism before the guild council. The MC accidentally discovers that she is not from this kingdom. He assumes she is a spy from a neighboring kingdom, sent to take down their guild from the inside to make the kingdom vulnerable to takeover when the ancient evil attacks. However, MC is falling in love with her. MC wrestles with conscience and the decision of whether or not to turn her in to the guild council.
It is eventually revealed that the imposter is not a spy; she is studying the patterns and history of the attacks in order to identify the ancient evil and defeat it once and for all. She has been slowly gaining access to guilds in every kingdom, believing that the information necessary to defeat the ancient evil exists, but due to constant war, has never been evaluated as a whole. Although in this world magic abilities are innate (e.g. some people are born exorcists, some people are born necromancers, some people are born healers), we learn that the imposter was born magic-less, but since the study of defeating the ancient evil was her father's lifetime work and she was his only child, he used an archaic, dangerous spell discovered in the vaults of some guild to instill exorcist ability in her when she was just a child. It worked, but she was permanently crippled because of it, and carries strong mixed emotions about her father, who is now dead.
Ultimately, working together, MC and the imposter discover that the ancient evil is really the guardian of the planet that originally was a peaceful, beautiful land before the planet was magically terraformed for the "second Eden" attempt. The guardian is tied inexorably to the planet and will never be free of torment as long as it lives, seeing the world it was charged with protecting torn apart by strangers. MC and the impostor reach the difficult conclusion that it is best to put the ancient guardian out of its misery. They have learned how to kill it through the combined study of the impostor and her father, and when it attacks, they do so. They save the world (but at what cost? /drama) and fall in love, facing forward towards a future of trying to bring peace to a land that has never known more than fifty years of calm.
Get the picture? The brainpower and creativity that it takes to turn something as silly as these plots sound into something meaningful and readable is the perfect combination of challenge, structure, and freedom to get me writing. And even if you never use any of the plots you write, you're essentially doing creative brain stretches, teaching yourself to think outside of the box to solve narrative problems, which is a great skill to have for those times when you write yourself into a corner.
I actually plan on using a (heavily modified) plot I wrote based on this method for NaNoWriMo this year!
Get anything good (or ridiculous) out of the generator with this attempt? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!