Tips for Character Building and Breaking the Block

With NaNoWriMo last month, a lot of writers were asking about how to break through writer’s block. I rarely get writer’s block myself – my hold-ups are generally mood-related – but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

  • I don’t remember where I got this trick; I may have read it somewhere, or may have made it up when a friend stated her antagonist stopped talking to her. I advised her to imagine him in a situation that will all face, one of life’s little earthquakes, being dumped by a first girlfriend, or losing his mother. How would he react to hearing the news? How does he rebound? This can be expanded to other everyday situations, like finding a stray dog or being asked on a date. This helps the writer do something fun as well as feel out their character. Doing exercises like these helped fill in my antagonists backstory and figure out where he got his tic.
  • For when the words won’t come, but you have a general idea of what you want to happen, begin to describe what should occur in the scene – in paragraph form, with as much detail as possible. What happens? How do the other characters react? Do they have any tics? Describe the environment – what kind of furniture is in the room? If it’s outside, how’s the weather? Is the wind blowing? Anything that occurs that does not exactly fit in your narrative, make a note in the margins. If you begin to lapse into narrative, go along with it. You could be writing the scene before you know it.
  • I am personally an outliner, but occasionally when I’m having trouble finding the words, I’ll sit down to blank paper and pants for a bit.  I hand-write everything out on paper, then type it up. Sometimes sitting in front of a computer and typing helps, especially if most of the scene is already written and I can’t figure out how to end it. Mixing up your habit might nudge the words out.


For any writers who are reading this, I’d love to hear what your method is to break the block.


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