Anyone who has been writing for more than 5 minutes has experienced some kind of writer’s block. It’s the dreaded term that writers refer to when we can’t seem to move forward in our story development, either because we can’t think of any new ideas or our current story is stuck. Some people suggest using writing prompts to help yourself move past your block. These can be quite helpful when you are having a hard time getting started or you need a new idea. (I have a list of great writing prompt websites on my Writer Resources page if this is where you need extra help.)

But what if you get stuck in the middle of writing your narrative? What if you already have your story laid out in your head, but the pieces just don’t seem to line up the way you thought they would? I have found that when my stories aren’t moving along; it is usually because there is some small piece of my story development that needs to be worked out. When I get that piece figured out, my stuck story starts flowing again with much less effort.

So, how do you get your stuck story unstuck? Sometimes it helps to take a step back and analyze the part of your story that isn’t moving by asking yourself the right questions.

Here are the 10 most helpful questions that I have found in analyzing my story development when I get stuck writing a scene:

 

1. Where do you want your characters to end up?

2. Why is it important that your characters get there?

3. What characteristics do your characters possess that brought them to where they are now?

4. What would each character do in this situation if the other characters were not involved?

5. Is it important that all the characters reach your intended destination at the same time, or even at all?

6. What are your characters thinking and feeling at this point in the story?

7. How should each character feel when they reach their destination? Why?

8. What are the obstacles standing in the character’s way?

9. Are there other factors to the outcome of the story that the characters do not know about?

10. Is there something you should take out of the story to provide more clarity or purpose for your characters?

Let’s go over each of these questions in detail. I will explain the purpose behind each one and how you can use them to enhance your story development and push your stuck story past your writer’s block.

1. Where do you want your characters to end up?

 

You may ask this another way: What is the point of your story?

In order to move your characters forward, you need to know where forward is. This doesn’t mean that you have to have the entire plot laid out, but you must have a goal. If you want to get your characters from point A to point B, you should know where you want B to be.

Do you want your characters to succeed in their quest? Do you want them to fall in love? Do you want them to die tragically and teach us all a lesson? What is your purpose in writing this story?

Maybe up to this point you have been writing just to see where the story takes you. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, some of the most accomplished writers out there start the story development of their ideas the same way. But at some point, you need to decide what your story is really about and why you are writing it.

If you have reached a roadblock in your story development and don’t know how to move forward, then this might just be the perfect time to figure out where your story is going and what your bigger purpose is.

2. Why is it important that your characters get there?

 

Many of you will have figured out the WHY when you figured out the WHERE. However, some of us start out with an ending in mind only to watch that ending slip further and further away as we continue to write.

If you find your story veering off its original course, now is a good time to reassess the WHY. What is the biggest reason why you want your characters to get to point B rather than some other destination? 

It may be that as your characters and story have developed, your original idea for an ending no longer fits and needs to be changed. Go back to question one and think about where the characters should end up instead.

On the other hand, you may find that you never assessed your motivation for getting the characters to point B in the first place, or that the motivation changed as you were writing. If this is the case, reevaluate your reason for getting them to point B. Then you can lay out a clear path to get your characters to point B in a way that serves the purpose of your story.

Pin It:

Story Development on your Stuck Story
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • reddit

3. What characteristics do your characters possess that brought them to where they are now?

 

Sometimes to move forward, we need to go backward first. To smooth out your story development, it’s important that your character’s next actions are congruent with who you have developed them to be up to this point. So, who have you developed them to be? How did they get to point A in the first place?

I once asked this question of a friend of mine when he was having a hard time figuring out the next piece of his story. His response was “because I wrote it that way.” If that is your answer, then there is your problem.

If you don’t know why your characters are here, then you have not developed them enough to understand their motivations. If you don’t understand their motivations, you will have a hard time moving the story forward in a compelling way.

Now is your chance to flesh out your characters and delve deeper into who they are. Take the time to understand their thoughts, feelings, and motivations as if they were actual people. Once you can explain why they have made the decisions that they have already made, and brought themselves to this point, you will better be able to see where they should go next.

4. What would each character do in this situation if the other characters were not involved?

 

I really love asking this question because it allows me to play with different scenarios in my head. In real life, every interaction between people is a mutual push and pull of personalities, dialogs and decisions. A situation in a story should be the same thing: a push and pull between the characters.

Some characters are going to have stronger or more direct personalities than the others. Some may have a stronger motivation towards one outcome or another. These factors will affect the emotional influence of those characters on the scene.

Once you figure out where each character would end up in the situation if left to their own devices, then you can play with how each of these characters will drive the whole situation and what kind of influence they will have on the others.

You may find that one outcome makes more sense for your story development than any other. If so, write that outcome. Or you may find that there are multiple outcomes that could work. If there are multiple plausible possibilities, choose the one you like best and use your character’s individual personalities to drive it forward.

5. Is it important that all the characters reach your intended destination at the same time, or even at all?

 

If your story is stuck because the intended outcome doesn’t fit for all the characters involved, maybe you don’t need them all to move forward. It’s possible that one or more of your characters is actually stopping the progress of your story. If that is the case, now is a good time to evaluate how important those characters are to the ending of the story and your story’s purpose.

You may decide that this is a good point for certain characters to be removed from the rest of the narrative, or at least from the interactions with the other important characters.

This does not mean that you necessarily need to kill them off. Although, you certainly may choose this route if it helps move you towards point B. But maybe two characters need to reach very different endings. If this is the case, then finding a good way to split them up will help move your story forward.

6. What are your characters thinking and feeling at this point in the story?

 

This is an important question to answer before you move on to question 7. You need to know how your characters are feeling now before you can figure out how they should feel later. However, this question can solve other problems as well.

First, explaining your character’s current physical and emotional state is sometimes a good way to fill up empty space and beef up your story. If you need to move characters from point A to point B, but the journey itself is uneventful, you could use this opportunity to develop your characters a bit further by delving into what they are thinking and how they are feeling at this moment.

**I only recommend doing this if it actually enriches your narrative and helps your story development. Don’t fill dead space just because you can’t think of anything else to do.**

 

Second, it could help you discover holes. Sometimes, analyzing your character’s current state can show you pieces of the story that you left out. For instance, if I know that my character should feel scared during this part of the story, then I should have already made it clear to my audience why she is feeling this way. If those details aren’t clear, you need to go back and fill them in so your audience is not confused.

Lastly, delving into your character’s current state can give you insight into why your story is stuck. It helps you figure out what that character would logically do next. If a certain character is angry or depressed, how will this affect their decisions in this situation? Also, if you take this time to fill in the backstory on why the character is experiencing these emotions, you could use this backstory to influence what choices they make next. Internal flashbacks that focus on a previous event or feeling could motivate your character towards a certain action or path in the present that they might not have chosen otherwise.

Want to get extra creative tips and alerts when new content drops? Sign up to be a Madly Mused Creative for FREE!!

Click on this Registration Form for free access!

Already a member? Click Here to Login.

7. How should each character feel when they reach their destination? Why?

 

A stuck story could be a sign that you are missing a piece of the puzzle between a character’s feelings now and later. If your characters are feeling one way at point A, but feel differently when they reach point B, there may be an action or transition that needs to be explained before you can smoothly get to point B.

For instance, if my characters hate each other at the beginning of the story, but my goal is for them to fall in love by the end of the story, I need to facilitate this change. In this scenario, something needs to happen in the middle of the narrative that would have a strong enough emotional impact on those characters to turn dislike into love.

If you know your characters well enough, then you should be able to ask yourself: What actions or events would cause the necessary emotional change in those characters? Are those actions plausible for these characters?

There may be more than one answer. In fact, there should be. Once you figure out all the things that could cause a change in your character, you can decide which of these actions is most helpful to the narrative and your story’s purpose. You can also assess which of these actions are the ones most likely for your developed characters to follow through with.

8. What are the obstacles standing in the character’s way?

 

Every situation has obstacles. Obstacles make situations interesting enough to write about and read about. But sometimes the obstacles that we writers come up with don’t feel right and hinder our story development. Ask yourself honestly if the obstacles that the characters are facing right now make sense. Are they are a right fit for this part of your narrative? If not, you may be forcing an interaction that isn’t right for the story or is in the wrong place.

 

If it feels wrong, take a moment and reassess each of the obstacles in play.

Do they drive the story forward and facilitate action from your characters? Do the obstacles serve a purpose in character or story development? What would happen if you took the obstacle out of the story? What would happen if you moved the obstacle to another place in the narrative? How would these changes affect your story’s purpose?

Any obstacles that don’t serve a clear purpose or enhance the story should be removed. Obstacles that are necessary to the story but don’t feel right at this juncture, may need to be moved to a different part of the narrative.

 

It is also possible that there are not enough obstacles in your story.

If you find your characters are moving too easily from point A to point B without an interesting interaction, maybe you have given your characters too much freedom. To quote Twyla Tharp – “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they give unlimited resources.” If you want your characters to learn something and grow throughout your tale, you must give them obstacles to overcome.

Is there a time constraint you can put on them? Could there be an interruption in supplies? Could one character fall back into old habits and cause a problem for the other characters? Figure out which obstacles you could use to drive the narrative towards your purpose. Interesting stories need obstacles, but they also need the right ones.

9. Are there other factors to the outcome of the story that the characters do not know about?

 

Your story should have obstacles, but it might serve your purpose better to hide them from your characters and reveal them later in the narrative. Sometimes creating unseen barriers can move a story along because it presents a problem that the audience can see and follow, but leaves the characters to still act how they would if the obstacle was not there.

Of course, the unseen factors will have to be dealt with at some point. If you create a secret problem, your readers will need closure on that problem, whether the characters know about it or not. But you can delay this reconciliation by hiding the obstacle from your characters for a time as long as it makes sense to the story and helps your characters move on from point A to point B.

10. Is there something you should take out of the story to provide more clarity or purpose for your characters?

 

This is the last question I ask myself if I can’t figure out what my barrier is. Sometimes, there is something already in the story that is preventing the narrative from getting to point B. If this is the case, you will need to remove that detail or change it. 

For instance, if I give my character the ability to fly, this will directly conflict with a scene where I need him to climb a mountain and accidentally stumble upon a great treasure. Something needs to change. 

One solution would be to put the treasure somewhere else where it would make more sense for him to find it. Another solution would be to remove his ability to fly, so he has no choice but to climb. If I choose to remove his abilities, I could do so over the whole story if I realize that it is not necessary for the rest of the narrative. Or I could create a situation where he gets injured and loses his abilities, requiring him to make the climb. Either way, I must choose one of the details to remove or change so it makes sense for him to reach my point B, finding the treasure. 

Ask yourself which of the conflicting details is more important to the overall story. Is it more important that your character fly the entire time, or is it more important that he find the treasure? Once you figure out which characteristic will make for a better story, then do whatever you have to do to fix the conflicting detail so the story can move forward.

Conclusion

 

The land of writer’s block is a terrible place to be, and a stuck story can make us consider giving up altogether. Instead of giving up, the next time you hit a story block try asking these ten questions and see what your mind comes up with. You may find that the story was ready to move forward after all, it just needed some extra story development. Asking the right questions can help you find the right solution to get your narrative going.

 

I hope these questions were helpful to you in your story development and helping your stuck story get unstuck. If you would like more reading on how to develop your story and plot, there is an amazing website called Storymind that I found when researching other blogs for writers. I encourage you to check it out.

 

How do you handle it when your story gets stuck? Are there other questions you have asked yourself to move forward or other solutions you have tried? I want to hear about them! Please share in the comments.

Fix Story Development on your Stuck Story
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • reddit
Fix Story Development on your Stuck Story
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • reddit
Fix Story Development on your Stuck Story
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • reddit

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This