Sunday, 6 April 2008

Writers Block???

A couple of nights ago, while trying to come up with an idea, Rachael sat with a blank pad in front of her. The only unusual thing in this was that the pad remained blank for quite some time, as she explains in her own post here. This was the first time in years that she’d been stumped for an idea, which is probably why I spent most of the evening on Google, doing searches like “writers block” and “random generators”.

I should point out that this is not exclusively a writer’s problem, as far as I know it’s something that is suffered by all creative people. I know that sometimes when I sit down to draw, pencil and paper at the ready, my mind empties. It should probably be called “Blank Page Mindset”.

As far as I understand it this mindset can be overcome by forcing your brain to work in a more random or abstract way. The brain never ‘truly’ works in a random way, but can be made to make associations that aren’t obvious or clear.

There are a number of ways to achieve this. Using visual prompts is one way, like quickly flicking through TV channels, or the pages of a magazine. No, watching telly and reading Hello don’t count. The hope is that it will get your brain used to jumping around so that ideas come from the randomness of it all and take you to unpredictable places.

Introducing somebody else’s random thoughts by using one of the random generators below can be useful at getting your brain juice flowing out of your fingers. I had several story ideas, just while gathering these links together. Don’t expect to write a literary classic based on a generator output, the random linking of ideas is what is important. Hit refresh a few times and see where it takes you.

Another way of dealing with it is to do “Morning Papers”. Just start writing any old stream of consciousness rubbish, partly to get your brain in the right gear, and partly to no longer have a blank page in front of you. Take a line from a newspaper or use one of the websites mentioned below to get you started. When you are up and running bin the first couple of pages. Don’t be tempted to bind up all your morning papers and send them off to a publisher. Although…..There are a few books I can think of…..

There are plenty of online random generators, most seem to be linked to TV shows like Stargate or Doctor Who, I’ve not included any of these. The ones I have gathered together are more general in output. I have put the sites in three groups. Inspiring, Useful and Just For Fun. Put a few in your bookmarks and next time you get stuck for an idea see if a little randomness helps.

52 Comic Challenges.
Has a Random Plot Generator and 100 Story Seeds to get your inspirational juices flowing again.
Generated Plot Example:
A non-descript astronaut gets embarrassed at an exclusive country club.

Feath's Bookcase. Has an interesting range of “Random Idea Generators
Generated Plot Example: (Taken from the Genre-Less Ideas page.)
Your Main Character is a(n): female
Your MC's main character trait is their: hate.
The Main Symbol in the story is a(n): apple.
Theme point is: Taboos.
Your story will start at/on/in: a Base.

A guy who describes himself as “Brian Stokes: The Intermittent Supergenius.” has developed The Random Logline Generator!
Random Logline Example:
An outlaw and a pair of itinerant truck drivers were separated at birth.

Serendipity. Has a page full of generators.
Generated Fantasy Plot Example:
In this story, dragons and elves clash with a beautiful elf stuck in the middle.

Seventh Sanctum. Has another range of generators.
Generated Plot Example:
The theme of this story: weird caper. The main characters: militant prospector and spendthrift archer. The start of the story: research. The end of the story: dream.

School for Champions. Has a “Simple Plot and Random Story Generator”.
Generated Plot Example:
Introduce protagonist and setting: A while ago in my backyard, a handsome boy named Bart was walking along, minding his own business. Bart looked and dressed like Elvis Presley.
Antagonist: Suddenly, he saw Bevis, who was smelly and looked a little like Donald Duck.
Point of tension, conflict or problem: Bevis proceeded to spit on a well-dressed girl's lipstick. The girl's name was Anita.
Effort to stop antagonist: "Stop, you stupid punk!" Bart yelled out. But Bevis started to run away.
Seem to fail: Bart chased Bevis through the park. Bevis could run fast and seemed to be getting away.
Happy outcome: But then in a final great effort, Bart ran as fast as humanly possible and surprisingly caught the scoundrel!
Anita was so happy, that she gave Bart a reward.
Thus ends a good story.

The Story Starter. Supplies a starter sentence to get you up and running.
Generated Starter Sentance Example:
The narrow minded movie star crawled into the hidden room to find the missing horse.

Archetype: The Fiction Writers Guide to Psychology.
Don’t be put off by the word “Psychology” it’s a very informative site. The “Plot Scenario Generator” is just a bit of fun, but the rest of the site has loads of useful information about general writing in the “Articles & Resources” and the “Muse” sections. There is even a Blog.
Generated Plot Example:
The story starts when your protagonist realizes s/he has to save the marriage.
Another character is a gypsy who has been following your protagonist for years.

The Writing for Children Resource Site. Has three
Writing Prompt Generators.
“Generator 3” seems to be the most useful.
Generated Plot Example:
The Protagonist: a taxicab driver
The Antagonist: an unknown force
The setting: a dusty attic
Goal: to discover a secret
An important event: a road trip
An important object: an old car
(All of these can be individually generated.)

SSF.Net. Has an interesting page entitled “The Thirty-six (plus one) Dramatic Situations” not strictly a generator but definitely interesting.
Generated Plot Example:
Your situation: 25. Adultery (Elements: a deceived husband or wife and two adulterers)

Just For Fun:
The Kitt.Net Automated Film Plot Idea Generator, is placed firmly in the just for fun section.
Generated Plot Example:
Aluminium Tiger
He was a frightening man who owned everything with a friend who dealt Cocaine and joined up eyebrows. She was a large breasted TV personality who didn't have a clue and painted nudes. Together they travelled to Mars. Fighting evil and exploring emotions.

The Movie Plot Generator. Has a fun online sampler. I will let you try this one for yourselves.

So the next time you are faced by a blank sheet of paper, unless you want it to stay that way, give your brain something to think about. Let it do some free association.

“Remember what the door-mouse said…..Feed your head!…..Feed your head!”

“Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as an entrance somewhere else.”


Rach said...

See what writing does for your other halves? Makes them a complete google junky.

Dave said...

I google therfore I am.