Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting Unstuck

I don't believe in writer's block - you write, or you don't. You may write drivel, but at least it's writing. Sure, there are mornings when I approach my desk and the old noggin churns up... nada. Rather than wring my hands exclaiming, "Woe is me - the muse has left the office," I stick out my tongue at all that white blaring back at me.

Rarely do I suffer a surfeit of ideas; indeed, I have more I can handle right now and if someone would like to purchase my storylines for (at least) 3 novels, 2 non-fiction tomes, several short stories, and countless poems, I'll sell them to you for... hours, days, months, all more precious than geld.

But I digress.

My writing does get stuck quite often, especially when I need to dig deep and get visceral. It's damn hard to convey raw humanity without lapsing into melodrama, the cousin to sex scenes' purple prose.

Lately I've struggled with finding the good in a couple of otherwise unsavory characters. I need to revela a kernal of possible redemption because, of course, I want my readers to empathize enough with these nasty dudes to care about their journeys.

Here's a writing exercise to get yourself deep and dirty. Go as yourself - or in character.

Ask: What one statement could someone utter that would make you (or your character) want to pummel that person through the ground?

Write the statement.

Write a monologue from the speaker's mouth. Include 1) the statement, and 2) the reason behind the statement. Three minutes. Do not pause, do not edit, do not pass Go. Just write.

Here's mine: "You're just a fucking nut job."

I don't get you. You've got health insurance; hell, the state pays for it, all the pills you'd ever want or need. All the hospitals, the shrinks at your disposal, but what do you do? Nothing. Your prescriptions pile up on your dresser like a stack of Wendy's napkins.

Jesus, Lou. My tax dollars at work. So get up. Now. Stop lying there in your skivvies. Jesus, it stinks in here - have you even showered? And for Cripe's sake, open the blinds, why dontchya? Let the fucking sun in?

You have so much damn potential. You were the smart one, you know. And why are you so sad anyway? Three squares a day, don't have to work at some shit job at Purina, roof over your head that don't need fixing. But you waste it all, you're just a fucking nut job. Do something - anything. Goddamnit.

Even Ma got us to school. She made us cereal, the milk had turned, but still... she packed us lunch. She even made our stupid beds, Lou. She did stuff. That day, she did a lot for us. Remember? Before she jumped.

Have at it - what'd you come up with? Peace, Linda


  1. Great writing exercise. And fantastic monologue. I'll still wondering why the mother jumped and where she jumped and why this girl isn't taking care of herself and what the speaker is so angry about and where she works and all these questions!

    I used to love writing monologues, back when I studied drama. This post of yours has reminded me of how much. I'll need to get back into it.


  2. I ditto what Jai said, cept I haven't done monologues...unless you count talking to yourself.

  3. Hey Jai! This was a good exercise. We did it twice, and my other one was too personal to post. But it certainly makes me able to write anger and empathy.

    Paige, talking to yourself counts. most def. ;^)

    Peace, Linda

  4. Holy Crap, girl! Good strong writing.

    Great exercise.

  5. Thanks Jodi! It's copied verbatim out of my notebook from class. Guess I was a little perturbed? Peace, Linda