Ok, I’ve probably said everything in this article before in another article. But, even so, it bears repeating (and not just because I can’t think of a new idea for an article today).
Anyway, this is an article about values – and how they can be useful when you’ve got writer’s block.
You see, we all have values of some kind or another. They might not always be the kind of values that other people try to indoctrinate us with from the moment that we’re born, but we all have values.
They are the intangible things (eg: intelligence, cynicism, imagination, cunning, self-expression, badassery etc…) that we personally see as “valuable” or “good” and which shape both our lives and our view of the world.
Anyway, if you’re stuck for an idea for your next story, try taking a look at your own values and asking yourself “If I was to write a story which embodied these values, what would it look like?”
The answers to this question might surprise you and, even if this exercise doesn’t give you a solid story idea, then you’ll at least know what the major themes in your next story will be and probably a thing or two about the main character of your next story too.
Chances are that you’ve probably done this already in your previous stories without even realising it. When writing is at it’s best, all of this stuff happens almost unconsciously, for the simple reason that we usually tend to tell the kinds of stories that we personally enjoy reading. And, well, most people enjoy reading stories which reflect values similar to their own values.
But, when you’ve found your values, don’t make the beginner’s mistake of including long moral, political, religious, philosophical and/or countercultural lectures in your story. If people want to read a lecture, then they will look for a lecture.
When people read a story, they want something interesting and – above all – entertaining. Opinionated lectures aren’t very entertaining because not only can they be extremely boring, but people also don’t like being told what to think.
In other words, be sure show your values subtly and through example rather than lecturing your reader. For example, if one of your values is “brains are better than brawn”, then it’d make a lot more sense if your main character looked and acted a lot more like Sherlock Holmes than if they looked and acted like, say, Duke Nukem or John Rambo.
But, if you absolutely must add a lecture to your story, then make sure that it’s entertaining. I cannot emphasise this enough. The best way to do this is to add a bit of humour to your lecture or to include some fascinating historical facts or something like that. Still, you should avoid lectures in your story wherever possible.
Knowing what values you want to include in your story can also help you get past writer’s block by reminding you of why you want to tell a particular story and why telling a story that includes your values is important to you.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found that I tend to feel more inspired when I’m creating something that means something to me than I am when I’m just creating something for the sake of it.
Sorry for such a short article today, but I hope that it was useful 🙂