Writing Discussion

How to Save a Stalled Story

This is a bit of a cheeky re-post from one of my own blogs. This comes to us from Fantasy Wordsmiths, an old experiment of mine which actually featured a couple of useful posts. I’ll leave you to it, this advice is really worth reading.

It’s happened to all of us. You get a story all planned out, you create the world, the characters, the set-pieces and you storm through the first few chapters. ‘Excellent,’ you say, ‘this is really going somewhere!’ But then it happens…

You lose momentum. You struggle to churn out a meagre 100 words. In essence, you stall.

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Action vs Stagnation

Epic Quest

It’s time for our second Epic Quest!

Let’s dive into our writing topic for today: Action vs Stagnation. This is sort of active vs. passive voice and it’s sort of sentence construction and sort of weak vs. strong verbs. Essentially, it’s how to avoid making your writing so boring that it will put the reader into a trance-like state.

Here’s an example:

STAGNATION: “Ishya was creeping along the corridor, keeping her eyes fixed on the floor in case of traps. She was sweating from the heat it was so hot. She knew she had to escape soon or she would roast to death.

ACTION: “Ishya crept along the corridor, her eyes fixed on the floor in case of traps. She wiped beads of sweat from her forehead and snatched at the heavy material of her shirt. She had to escape from this place before she roasted to death!”

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Keeping Your Story Focused

I thought this topic would be good to cover today as it was something I personally had to deal with this very weekend. Keeping a story focused means avoiding anything (majorly) extraneous to your plot. It’s that whole thing about not throwing everything and the kitchen sink into your project in the hope that something works. You may also refer to the analogy of throwing pancakes at the wall to see what sticks (although in that case it’s better if none of it sticks, surely?)

Let me start off with my own little dilemma as an example of this in practice.

In my story, I have two main factions who tolerate each other right now. Later in the story, they will be at each other’s throats. The trap I very nearly fell into was to add a third faction, an army of foreigners, to come in and provide my story’s big conflict. What I later realised was that I already had a great, meaningful conflict built up between my two original factions. To add a third would be to rob my story of its core conflict and simply muddy the waters with mindless ‘epicness’.

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Character Traits as Sliding Scales

Epic Quest

I’m going to get right into the first writing discussion here on Epically Written by borrowing an idea from a little podcast called Writing Excuses. OK, maybe not little per say, maybe the one of the most popular (if not the most popular) fantasy writing podcasts out there.

If you want to check out the episode in question, I’ll put the link up at the end of this post.

So the technique that was discussed in the episode was Three Pronged Character Development. Basically, you take three character traits (Brandon Sanderson took Proactivity, Competence and Sympathy) and you slide them up or down to create different types of character.

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