You may not believe in writer’s block, but face it – every writer out there goes through dry spells where they just can’t come up with anything. In this article, you’ll learn a simple fill-in-the-blank exercise to help you come up with interesting stories, and get rid of writer’s block forever.
Step One: Get a Protagonist
You can’t have a story without a central character. At this point, it doesn’t matter who your protagonist is. After all, we’re just getting started, and you can always go back and toy with him or her later. Right now, simply take out a sheet of paper and write down a character you find interesting. For example, if you enjoy writing coming-of-age tales, you might jot down, “A thirteen-year-old boy.” Or, if you prefer mysteries, maybe something like, “A private detective.”
Step Two: Give your Protagonist a Defect
Protagonist is Greek for “first struggler,” so your main character needs to, wellÃ¢Â?Â¦struggle. To accomplish this, you need to give your character a defect of some kind. No character is perfect. Even Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes.
Perhaps the thirteen-year-old boy in our coming-of-age tale is a troubled boy who abuses drugs, or gets into fights at school. If you don’t like that, maybe he’s shy and reclusive. Pick a defect that appeals to you, something you find interesting and want to explore in your writing, and write it down underneath your protagonist on your sheet of paper. Don’t overlook this step, it’s very important.
Step Three: Make an Event
Okay, so you have a main character that has a defect, now what? Well, throw your character into an event. The event is entirely up to you, but it should involve the character’s defect in some way.
Sticking with our coming-of-age character with the drug defect, perhaps he gets arrested. Or, if you like the shyness defect, perhaps he has to give a speech to the entire school. Pick your event, and write it down under the defect you have given your main character.
Step Four: Find a Helper
Sometimes they’re called sidekicks, sometimes mentors. Whatever you call them, their job is to help the protagonist overcome their defect. Think about some of the movies you’ve seen with these type of characters. Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting had the shrink played by Robin Williams. It was the shrink’s job to help Will overcome his defect as a troubled irresponsible man. The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi, Lars in Garden State had Sam-the list goes on and on.
In our coming-of-age story, perhaps after being arrested, the troubled teen meets a probation officer who helps him turn his life around. Or, if you preferred the shy defect, maybe the character seeks out the help of a popular confident student to help him.
Step Five: Find an Antagonist
Notice I didn’t say “bad guy.” Sure, some stories like the evil James Bond-type villain, but the goal of your antagonist is to simply stand in the way of what the protagonist wants, or want something that’s not right for the protagonist. In Good Will Hunting, the antagonist is the professor. Even though he wants what’s best for Will, he wants to push him, which can just cause more damage. Of course, Will’s defect acts as an antagonist, too.
Our arrested teen could act as his own antagonist. Perhaps with the help of the probation officer, he sees that he is standing in his own way of becoming a productive human being. Or, maybe he has an abusive father he needs to stand up to. Find the antagonist for you story, and write it down under your helper.
Step Six: Put Them Together
So, you have your protagonist, he or she has a defect, you’ve thrown them into an event, and there’s an antagonist standing in their way. Put all those elements together, and you’ve got yourself a story.
So, our coming-of-age tale would be something like this: A troubled teenage boy (protagonist/defect) gets arrested (event), but with the help of a probation officer (helper) is able to overcome his inner pain (antagonist) and change for the better.
Using Good Will Hunting as an example, the story goes: An out of control mathematical genius (protagonist/defect) is given the opportunity to study at MIT (event) under an over-ambitious professor (antagonist), but must conquer his wild ways with the help of a therapist (helper), before he can feel worthwhile and complete.
You don’t have to follow the steps in any particular order. If you prefer to start with an event, or an antagonist, go for it. Make the system your own – mold it to suit your individual needs as a writer. In the end, the goal is to simply get the ideas flowing, and help you discover the stories already inside you.