Break Glass in Case of Emergency

Something neat my local NaNoWriMo chapter did was to have all the participants write a plot action item on a card, seal it in an envelope, and then we swapped them. When you got stuck on your book, you were allowed to open the envelope and use the plot action item to aid you in getting over the hump.

 The one I wrote was:

Out of the blue, someone kisses your main character. Who does it and why? How does your MC react?

The one I got was:

Your MC dies; tell the rest of your story from the POV of a secondary character.

While I don’t recommend killing off your MC before the end of the book, if you feel your MC isn’t going anywhere, why not try writing from the POV of a more interesting secondary character? It may be that you need to switch to a different MC and allow the original one to continue as part of the plot, but not the voice.

Here are some other exercises to help you break your writer’s block or get in touch with your character:

  • If you have a character without a personality, look up the character traits associated with any given horoscope sign (Eastern or Western) and apply that to your character. You can also look up personality traits on the Briggs-Meyer Type Indicator. If you want, mix and match personality descriptions. While I match many Libra personality traits, I am rather reclusive; most Libras are ‘people’ persons. No one matches any grouping perfectly.
  • Write a detailed description of what your character does on an average day. This is not for inclusion in your book—as it’s going to be boring to read—but it does allow you to get a feel for your character and can even provide background knowledge which can come to light later. Does your character do chores or avoid them? Is he or she good at these chores, or hopelessly clueless? How does he or she spend their leisure time? Where does he or she work? What are the coworkers like? The boss? What does he or she day dream? What does he or she like to eat for meals? Even if you never use any of this information, you will know it, and it will come across to your reader that you know your character well; it will show in character depth.
  • A character in your book (MC or secondary) is arrested. What did he or she do, or is it a false arrest? Does he or she do any jail time? What are the consequences of the arrest?
  • Your MC becomes unconscious (can be knocked out, fainted, or drugged); what is the circumstance behind this?
  • Your MC just discovers something big. What is it? Is s/he adopted? Evidence that spouse is cheating? Is it a stash of cash? A letter from Abraham Lincoln in the attic? Describe what’s found and detail the ramifications for your MC (and any other characters it might affect).

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