Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The meteor strategy works for me in writing as well. If I'm standing at the crossroads, a gaping intersection with street signs that say, "WRITER'S BLOCK" in each direction...I have no choice but to resort to the meteor strategy. What if a meteor were to fall down from the sky and crash onto my current scene? What would my characters do? How would they react to this crisis? How would they recover?
An example. My characters are trapped in a remote outpost with a jeep stuck in the mud, and a steady rainfall thwarting all their efforts. To make matters worse, they have run out of things to say to each other, and honestly, I don't know where they will go if the jeep gets out of the mud. I have no clue, and sadly, I don't particularly care.
BOOM! A meteor falls from the sky and crashes just a few short feet from the immobile jeep.
What are they going to do?
How are they going to recover?
The meteor has caused a gaping crater in the earth into which all the water is now pooling, reducing the viscous substance that is locking the jeep in place. Across this crater my characters look at each other in disbelief. "My God," they say, "a meteor has just crashed at our feet." In that moment the man notices that the rainfall has made the woman's white shirt a diaphanous sheet of silk, and he charges the circumference of the crater and takes her into his arms and kisses her passionately.
Yes, this is all completely absurd, but what have I done here? I have taken a meteor and hurled it into the scene, which has allowed me to step outside the box and look at what is happening between my characters and their environment.
Apply the meteor strategy at home. The kids are yelling. Your husband is on the cellphone because his work place misses him desperately in the half hour it has been since he left there. The dog just coughed up the remnants of a can of Play-Doh, and you realize you never started the timer on the stove.
Stop and yell out, "What would you all do if a meteor crashed on the table right now?"
I guarantee you they will all stop and look at you, and yes for once...for one unbelievably powerful second, you will command their attention. Seize the moment! Form the next scene!