I’m going to put the flash in “Flash Writing Tips” and keep this one really brief. But just because this is short, that doesn’t mean that it’s unimportant.
This is one of those things that happens to all writers at one time or another: Sometimes in the course of writing a book, I will find myself stuck from a plotting point of view. Things seem to be stagnating; my characters seem to be running around in circles (in a figurative sense) not getting anything done. I know that I need jump-start my story, but how do I do that?
I have one friend, who believes that when things slow down too much, it’s time for her to kill off a character. Seriously. That’s the way she deals with the issue. Stalled narrative? Time to kill someone. And for her it works. It might work for you, too. And I have to admit that I have used that approach every now and then. But sometimes upping the body count really doesn’t fit with what’s happening in the book. So what then?
Well, one thing I do is ask myself what it is my main characters are trying to accomplish at that particular moment. Then, I try to figure out what would be the absolute worst thing, from their perspective, that could happen to them at that moment. And then I do that to them. Cruel, I know. Evil, even. But lots of fun.
At other times, I will introduce a new character. A love interest perhaps. An ally for my protagonist, or a co-conspirator for my villain. Like killing off a character, adding a new person to the mix changes the dynamics, forces the other characters to adjust and act.
The thing to keep in mind, is that you don’t want to create problems or throw obstacles in their path, or kill off or add new characters JUST for the sake of giving yourself something to write about. You need to make certain that what you’re doing to your characters has narrative purpose. It should fit with your larger story arc. It should add something other than pages to your book. How do you make sure of this? It’s easier than it sounds. Quite often the changes you make at these moments might feel like they’re born of desperation. But before you know it new plot threads will open up, new character interactions will appear, and you’ll be rolling again.
So when things start to stagnate, shake them up a bit. Sure, doing so means deviating from that outline with which you started, but it might just save your story.