What do we do when we run into road blocks? I’m not talking about writer’s block, because I think if any good writer sits in a chair long enough, with a keyboard beneath his fingertips (or a pen in his hand), words will come. What I find myself considering more and more, is what do us writers do when our characters take the day off, the story quits talking to us, or we find ourselves asking the question: Now what?

For this, everyone has different techniques.

Ralph Ellison’s wife said that she would lay awake at night and listen to the sound of her husband having full-blown conversations with his characters. I do admit that I like the idea of speaking with my characters, but everything is easier with liquor.

I do not simply talk with my characters, I prefer to have a drink with them.

Alcohol forces both me and my characters to loosen up a little. It pulls stories out of the characters. It also makes me more courageous as a writer. (They don’t call it liquid courage for nothing.) It lets me try new things that, were I sober, I would not normally try. Plus, when you get a character drunk, you can ask him or her questions. You also get to see a bit of their true self.

We are never more ourselves then when we have had a little booze.

Another technique I use, is to write a character a letter. This ensures that I am in control of my story. I tell the character what I do and do not like about their actions. I tell them secrets that up until that point I had kept to myself. Most importantly, I tell them what they will be doing over the next few pages. Sometimes, saying these things out loud is all it takes to clear up the rubble, allowing the story to move forward uninterrupted.

When things get bad, and I mean bad, then I go back to the storyboard. (Incidentally, this is where I currently find myself.) I get a drink, buy a stack of note cards, and begin mapping out what every character is doing during every second of my story. This forces me to consider what my characters are actually doing. This is incredibly tedious and boring, so it usually takes no longer than a day before I am back in front of my story, typing vigorously and thus ensuring that I never have to waste my time again.

Unfortunately, most of my road blocks come directly after I finish what I consider to be a grand moment in my writing. My biggest hurdles in my novel have occurred directly after the chapters I write in one take. They happen at the moments when I feel like the words are traveling through my fingers, and I am nothing more than a vehicle through which this story can be told.

In short, I face road blocks when I feel control of my story slipping.

Deep down, I understand that I am always in control of what I write, but there is a part of me that says that if I lose control of the story, then there is no going back. There is no return to land of “well thought-out plot and character relationships.” This is not a bad thing. Every writer should have a moment when they remember that they are in charge. Characters can get bossy. And while you can’t force them to do something they don’t want to do, you can ask them politely.

I constantly remind myself that as a writer, I am in control of what I write. We can blame our characters for a lot of things, but we can’t blame them for everything. If something is in the way of our story, it is our job to move the obstruction.

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