- Take a break, pick a few random words, and do a freewrite. A freewrite is essentially stream-of-consciousness writing for an amount of time. Do not pause to edit, do not plan out where you’re going. I personally find freewrites to be very useful for getting into writing mode. (That being said, I don’t actually use them that often.) So, if you’re stuck because you don’t feel like the words are flowing as well as they should, I suggest trying a freewrite. You might also be overthinking it, so you might want to step back and take a short break. You can always come back to your scene later.
- Kill someone. Not a real person. (Seriously, do not go out and murder a real person. That is illegal and highly frowned upon.) Just pick a character and kill them off. Depending on what you’re going for and the type of story you’re writing, it might not be a good idea to kill off a main character. But, you could still kill off a secondary or side character. Feel free to be creative with their death, just so long as it matches the overall feel of the story or what you’re going for. (You might not want to drown a lead in a detailed, grotesque matter midway through an empowering fantasy, for example.) But, if the inspiration strikes, feel free to use this death as a turning point.
- Cut to the villain. Or anyone not currently present. If this isn’t a good point to jump away, remember that you can always return to working on your current scene at a later time. Have you shown the villain’s perspective yet? (Should you?) What about their lover (assuming they have one)? The people they left behind? An old friend who’s looking for them? A parent following them in the news? Who else you can jump to depends on the story you want to tell. If you’re telling a story in just 1st person, you can still jump by having them recall a related memory. Or maybe a flashback. Who you cut to is really up to you.
- Sketch out the ending. This could be an outline, a rough summary, or even a completed scene. The idea is that, once you have a better idea of where you’re going, you can better work with the scene you’re stuck on now. How does the current scene contribute to where the story is going? What needs to happen next to further approach the endpoint? Does a character need something special from this scene in order to advance the plot?
- Change the weather. Is your character scared of thunderstorms? If your party is outside, where do they go to take shelter from the rain? Is a character fascinated by the snow? Does snow make them recall a memory from their childhood? Do someone love to go dancing in the rain? Does a sudden cloud cover send people inside? Does a windstorm force a change in route? Does a change in the wind bring in the smell of the ocean, causing a change in conversation? Is the moon covered by clouds that night? Do storm clouds cover the moon, making it pitch black outside? You probably get the idea. Weather is not just limited to the rain.
- Sketch out another scene. Write it out now if you feel like it and are okay with jumping around. Or you could just outline it. This one is similar to number four; once you have a better idea of where you’re going, you can better work with the scene you’re stuck on now. What will it take for your characters to reach this other scene? Does something else need to happen between the two? How do they physically get there?
- Take your main characters and use them to start a freewrite. Maybe sketch out a memory, or maybe place them in a setting they would never be in. As was stated under number one, a freewrite can be useful for getting into writing mode. In this case, you are working with your main characters. If you are writing a high fantasy, maybe put them in a modern dance club. Or in a space ship. If you’re writing a modern romance, how would your characters’ romance be different on a pirate ship? Or in 1936 New York City? Does someone go on a drug trip? What are your characters’ nightmares?
- Switch your music. Play a song that matches the tone you’re going for. For example, maybe you could play music from Schindler’s List if you’re stuck on a depressing scene. Maybe some fast-pacing techno or high energy metal during a high-intensity battle scene. If one character is an angsty teenager, pick a song that you think is the embodiment of angst. If a character is feeling rebellious, then try a rebellious song.
- Scrap it and start the scene over. Make sure to change something, so you don’t end up just repeating yourself. For example, maybe have an additional character present. Or have them enter the scene in a different manner. Maybe the location of the scene needs to change. Is someone hungry? Maybe have them walk into a restaurant and place your scene there. Or maybe a friend’s kitchen. What you change here is up to you. However, if you get stuck at the ‘I just don’t know what to do stage’, I would suggest making a random change and treating it like a freewrite just to see what you end up with. If that doesn’t get you unstuck, see number ten.
- Lastly, and probably most importantly: question the necessity of the scene. If you’re finding yourself stuck on it, maybe there’s a reason why. For example, maybe this scene needs to go later and you’re trying to force your way through it too early. Or, maybe it needs to happen so differently that you can’t push it through the way you have it set up. Essentially, you want to examine the reason why you’re stuck and find your solution there. Do not be afraid to scrap a scene if you need to.
[SPOILERS! This short extra does contain spoilers for Victim]
“I suppose I’m dead.”
Her hair was bright blue today, like a glimpse of a neon sky. Under the city lights, the color was especially bright, like a miniature blue blaze. Her oversized bag was on her back, already packed for the journey ahead. In her left hand was a purple rose, the same one Mica had given her just two days before. The petals were still healthy, artificially preserved like a 3D photograph. In front of her was a murderscreen. This year’s victims were displayed with smiling faces, just as artificial in their preservation.
She lowered herself to her knees, her eyes already pinned to the most recent image. It was another smiling face, framed by her bright blue hair. Slowly, she reached up her right hand, letting her fingertips grace the screen. She slid her hand across, following the edge of the image of her hair. It was somewhat surreal, seeing her own face up there.
“I’m dead. You can stop now.” Her voice sounded more pathetic than she intended. Her left hand fidgeted with her skirt a moment, her right hand pulling her hair behind her ears. Taking a deep breath, she stopped fidgeting, gripping her elbows. She closed her eyes, taking another deep breath.
“I’m dead. You will stop now.” Her voice sounded confident, determined. That was the voice she wanted to hear: the voice of a strong heroine, not that of a victim. She opened her eyes, meeting those of her image in front of her. Slowly, she took in another deep breath, her right hand retracing its path across the screen. Rina stood to leave, finally averting her eyes. She dropped the purple rose, letting it join the makeshift memorial.
“I really am sorry Mica.”
Word Count: 60,803
Publishing Date: June 5, 2018
It’s over a hundred and fifty years in the future. The Pyrrh have taken over, forcing the remaining descendants of humanity to either cower in shelters or fend for themselves in the outer zones. Three friends enter the scene, fleeing for their lives. They encounter a supposed scientist, a man who has possession of a mysterious time machine. When Aiden swipes the key, new opportunities arise. Perhaps the best escape of all is to the past? But what consequences await? (TW: implied intent of suicide among several unnamed side characters)
Sum it up in one sentence:
Three friends attempt to escape to the past, only to encounter disastrous consequences.
This work was one of my larger side projects when I moved it up to my secondary main project. I seemed to be going through a horror phase (which is perfectly fine, I just haven’t done much with fantasy for a while). The original outline was sci-fi horror, but I decided to turn it into just a sci-fi instead. The progress on this work did overtake my progress on IBwaD (this sounds familiar since that happened with [Victim]), so I have shifted it up to my main project. ItU takes place in the Balance of Souls, just like Victim, except in different times in that setting. While Victim takes place mid-way through their timeline, ItU takes place in the late and early points in the setting (See [The Balance of Souls] for clarification).
This project was originally a camp NaNo project (camp NaNoWriMo is essentially off-season NaNoWriMo, [link]). However, I was very sick that summer due to a negative reaction to a medication essentially wrecked my immune system for a few months, so I did not get as far as I wanted to with the original draft. Due to trying to convince myself to write at a very early (or late, depending on how to look at it) hour, with an especially painful stomach bug, I accidentally scared myself. Out of stubbornness, I rewrote the later middle section, but kept the original ending (mostly, since I added the Lilchtee candies). After I turned it from a sci-fi horror (via Victim’s S-H distinction) into just a regular sci-fi, I rewrote basically all but the last roughly four lines.
I’ve chosen a song for the book overall, but it might be a bit of an odd choice. It’s actually a country song, and I like the energy behind it. The lyrics, too, are fitting. “Better hold on tight / Before you know it’s gone / And live like tomorrow never comes” It’s especially fitting for when they steal the time machine and set off on their adventure. The song is Zac Brown Band’s Tomorrow Never Comes. You can find it on youtube [here].
The physical descriptions of this character within Victim were limited intentionally. However, he has an average height, dark brown hair, and brown eyes. I never officially decided this for certain, but he probably has some degree of eastern asian ancestry. Mica feels like he has trouble existing in the world. Even since he can remember, he’s had this nagging feeling that he was never meant to be born. He thinks he knows where he’s going, but, at the same time, he knows how limited his knowledge is. He always feels at odds with the world, out of place in it. He relies a lot on Rina (his girlfriend) and on the man in his mind, a guardian angel-type entity in his thoughts. His hobbies include parkour, freerunning, and questioning reality.
Rina is of average height with brown eyes. She often dyes her hair, but its natural color is light brown. Because of the myriad of scars from cutting (and her discomfort with her own body), she always covers her arms and legs, usually with clothing that is too big for her. She also feels at odds with the world, so her relationship with Mica becomes a refuge. Her hobbies include reading, baking (and learning to cook), experimenting with alternative fashion, and hating technology.
A note about how Rina navigates her world: the world around her is not always kind. I never clarified why, and that is intentional, since the story is told from Mica’s perspective. Think about it like this: if you had a partner with a skin condition, for example, would you see your partner or the skin condition? Although I never clarified it, the prevailing thought is that you would just see you partner. Mica does observe her scars sometimes, but only in the context of noticing her covering them or worrying about her hurting herself. Although Rina is not canonically a transgirl, I did consider that when I initially wrote her. However, I ultimately opted to give her a skin condition instead. Let me give you a real world example that is more in line with what I intended:
I have an obvious facial birthmark. When I was very, very little, my mother took me out on one of my earliest outings with her to the grocery store. A woman started yelling at her because she thought my mother was abusing me. I remember once a man crossed himself and went very out of his way to avoid passing me on the sidewalk. My (very, very upset) mother got called to my elementary school once because a faculty member thought I had poison ivy. It’s normal for me to be stared at in public, and sometimes people try to take non-consensual photos. I could continue with this list from there, but you get the idea by now. For anyone who has never seen me in person, I have an image of myself up on the about page. But I get reactions like this way too often.