Sneaky Ploys To Get Your Characters Yapping

by Maggie Van Well

Have you ever reached a pivotal scene in your work in progress, one that explains your hero’s (or heroine’s, but for the purposes of this article I’m sticking with hero) inner conflict and guess what? He ain’t talking. Time outs and taking away his favorite video game hasn’t helped.

So what do I do while my hero sits pouting in the corner with his arms crossed tightly, lips pressed firmly together while shaking his head? Well, if it were me, all you’d have to do is offer a sizable amount of Godiva chocolate and I’d be sharing secrets from my weight to my PIN number. Unfortunately, characters aren’t that easily coaxed so I’ve developed a few exercises that have worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you too.

1. Write it out anyway: This work best for me. It doesn’t have to make sense. Doesn’t have to be paced or in any sequence, but once you have a skeleton, you can work on adding the muscle and flesh. Why it works: I think my character peeks over my shoulder while I’m typing out the scene, becomes horrified at the horrible writing and demands I do it his way.

2. Speak it into existence: You’ve heard many times to read your work out loud. So why not do the same with the scene you’re attempting to write? Just like above, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it might take you in a direction you hadn’t considered. Why it works: I think my hero gets ticked off at my horrible impression of him and entices me to stop by taking over. P.S. unless you have understanding kids like I do, I wouldn’t attempt this exercise unless you’re alone.

3. Critique: There’s something very refreshing about, not only reading another writer’s fine work, but also helping them make it better. Many times I’ve read another author’s story and felt energized to work on one of my own. Why it works: I think when my hero sees how well behaved other writer’s heroes are, he becomes jealous and wants to do the same.

4. Listen to music: Music has always been an inspiration for me. Try listening to your or your character’s favorite music. Although, something soothing probably works best, any genre will do. Why it works: I think it relaxes my character enough that he forgets why he’s angry with me and stops giving me the cold shoulder.

5. Play a Hidden Object Game (or another genre of your choice): This I add with caution. I love these games and, at times, I get so caught up, I look at the clock and realize I didn’t cook dinner, let alone write a single word. But sometimes using the side of my brain that doesn’t require creativity can free up whatever is causing the writer’s block. Why it works: When I play hidden object games, my character focuses so much on the game I can sometimes get him talking without him realizing it. Hey, whatever works, right?

6. Stare into Space: No, seriously! There are times I stare at a blank page and let my eyes go out of focus. I think it might be a form of meditation. But once I let the silence take over, eventually the ideas come to me. Sadly, this exercise only works if you have enough time and/or don’t have people whining at you to start dinner. Why it works: I think my character eventually gets so bored, he starts talking just to fill the silence. However, be warned, if you start hearing other voices telling you to go through your neighbor’s garbage or something weird like that, I’d take a break.

7. Go on a retreat: This one is my favorite, but alas, the hardest to establish. Being with other writers not only offers you brainstorming at the drop of a hat, but tons of inspiration. Just the clicking of other’s tapping on their laptops, fills the room with so much creative energy it really gets you going. Why it works: That much energy is like caffeine high to my hero or sugar or possibly something slightly illegal. Either way it gets him chatting.

8. Time alone: This one is pretty tough too. For most of us, being alone might mean having to go as far as renting out a hotel room and depending on where you live that can get very expensive. But going solo, without a phone to interrupt your flow, children asking where the peanut butter is-which, I’m sorry, but if they had just moved the mac and cheese they would’ve found it– or your spouse wanting a lift from the train station really helps you clear your mind. Why it works: My guess would be my hero starts to worry I’m trying to seduce him (he’s in love with the heroine after all), so he starts babbling until I can’t shut him up anymore.

9. Spend time with nature: I love the ocean. I’m blessed to have grown up on Long Island where you can’t go twenty minutes in any direction without hitting some body of water. It soothes me and starts my brain working. Not by water? You can also study wildlife; squirrels are particularly entertaining. Watch the sunrise/set. Listen to the wind or start a fire-in the fireplace, please. Why it works: If I had to guess, I think my hero believes if he talks to me I’ll take him kayaking. I’m not, but he doesn’t know that.

So get your characters talking and if they’re being stubborn, don’t give up. Trust me; they want their story told just as much as you want to tell it.

Maggie Van Well writes humorous contemporary and paranormal romance. Her first contemporary release, The Chase is On, was released in April 2011 through The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on a small town series about a fictional town on Long Island. When she isn’t writing, you can find her playing hidden object games or singing karaoke. She lives on Long Island with her husband, four kids and three Italian Greyhounds.

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