beats, character, cliche, scene, writer's block -


Sometimes the script doesn’t want to cooperate. You stare at the page and nothing comes. The scenes you’ve written all seem tired and obvious. You’re forty pages into the script, and going further feels like a chore. What happens next? You don’t know. Nothing clicks.

It’s the condition commonly known as writer’s block.

There is no easy cure. But it’s just a part of the process. Everyone hits these odd corners of development, and solving for them is what makes writing an art and a craft. Each instance of block is its own beast, unique to the script, the writer, the scene. But there are a few ways to rattle the machine to (hopefully) get things going.

Change the script. One common cause of writer’s block is a set of story elements that comes together in a way that creates a sticky puzzle. “But if she knows the butler is the killer, why does she go to the mansion in act two…?”

The way to solve for this is to get fearless about changing the elements that have created the puzzle. Ask the tough questions. Do we need this beat, scene, character? Can we introduce a new character who breaks the stalemate? Can we shift up the sequence of events so A goes where B is and B goes where D is and D goes after F? Could we just erase all of the boring parts, and restart with just the good stuff in hand?

Change the story. Another common reason a block sets in is an unwillingness to settle for common tropes and familiar choices. The writing of the scene is hard because the easy version is a cliché. While it’s good to have the drive to push harder to offer the audience something new and fresh, that won’t happen if the scene never gets written at all.

There is a value to writing “the dumb version.” Or drawing on the familiar trope, the cliché. At least then the scene gets written. And in the writing of the scene you’re thinking okay, how can we change this thing up? Instead of staring at a blank page, now you have several pages in hand to act as raw material. Nothing cracks writer’s block quite like writing. Just get the characters talking to each other, doing things, thinking and reacting. The characters will very often lead you out of a patch of doldrums.

Change the writer. Check your head. So much of this craft involves crouching over a keyboard for many, many hours, staring wide-eyed at the screen. It’s easy for the brain to freeze up.

The solution then is to change your thinking. Change your surroundings; a lot of people go for walks. Work out, drive around, hit a bar, go see a movie. Do something new; go somewhere you haven’t been, listen to music you don’t ordinarily spin, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Shift your perception, and the words will come.

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