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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

A different angle

YESTERDAY I found myself stuck. Seemingly absolutely and irrevocably. The fabled writer’s block had struck.

The day before had been a particular dream, the words pouring from me, fingers dancing over the keyboard. What’s more, it was all good stuff. I had turned my laptop off feeling confident that the following day I’d be able to pick up where I had left off, and fly through a few thousand words, no problem.

Then the next day dawned – minus a visitation from whatever muse had presumably been whispering in my ear previously, the changeable madam. So there I was, staring at the screen, wondering what to heck to write.

Sometimes the best thing to do under such circumstances is to take a break, step back, give myself a little thinking time. But I really didn’t want to do that. Simply forcing myself to get on with it works a treat more often than not, so perhaps I should do that… But somehow instinctively, I knew that that wasn’t going to work this time and that anything I produced would not drive the story forward, in fact it would probably be drivel.

What to do then? I couldn’t write. I couldn’t not write.

So I decided to come at things from a completely different angle. I wouldn’t do anything on the novel itself per se, instead I’d write mini biographies for each of the main characters.

At first it felt like an exercise in time-wasting: I was writing down what I already knew. But as I wrote, I started to see the characters in even greater detail, fleshing out their history, their motivations, their likes and dislikes. And along the way, almost miraculously, I solved a lot of plot issues too. Problems I had been pondering for some time, trying to look at from every angle and never really being satisfied with the answers I came up with, suddenly melted away as I wrote the biographies.

Why? Because I wasn’t thinking of story plots any more, instead I was thinking of people. By looking at things from the ‘wrong’ direction, I had made everything come right.

I’m so glad that I had a mini spot of writer’s block yesterday, because it was the best thing that could have happened to my book. Now I’m forging forward and feeling confident. Perhaps that muse was whispering to me after all.

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