Despite the fact that I currently have no fewer than four projects on the go (not counting the manuscript I’m in the process of editing) I have recently had one hell of a case of writer’s block. On new than a couple of days I found myself staring at my notebook for hours, unable to come up with the words. Even worse, when I did find words they were terrible ones. The bits that I was managing to get onto paper were making me gag.
It was with that gag reflex in tow that I found myself searching the Internet for ideas on battling that great evil we know as writer’s block. I skipped past a number of ideas and suggestions before landing on a list of writing exercises, on which I found a simple prospect: observe the world around you right now…describe it in as much detail as possible.
I whipped out my pen and notebook and began immediately, but soon found my pen stalling. While an interesting idea, it wasn’t exactly exciting to describe an industrial control room…it’s pretty much just desks and computers. But then I got a different idea…I glanced at the coworker to my left and began describing him: his face, his clothes, his mannerisms…whatever I could see or knew from having talked to him. Then I moved on to the next coworker and the next. I wrote everything I knew about them or could see by a quick glance in their direction. I wrote about the bosses and the secretary. I wrote about the field technicians who came in the discuss issues. I wrote about the engineers we share the building with. I wrote thoroughly and honestly. Over the course of three days I wrote over 3000 words just on descriptions of the people around me at work.
I thought this turned out to be an excellent exercise for two reasons. For one, character descriptions is something that is difficult to get right when writing fiction, since you want your reader to be picturing the character the way you do, but you don’t want to bore them to death by ranting on and on about physical details and personality traits. I found over the course of this exercise I slowly got more information in while being more succinct. The other reason is that when I was finished with my exercise I found myself presented with approximately two dozen perfectly viable characters. Names would have to be changed, to protect me from my own brutal honesty, but other than that I now have a small smorgasbord of possible characters to choose from the next time I need a new addition to one of my stories.
What do you think? Does my exercise sound like a worthwhile one? Will you give it a try? Or have you done something similar before? Please share! 🙂