7 Ways To Connect To Your Story
Picture it: your writing space on any given day. You have your beverage of choice at hand, your laptop/notebook/typewriter all set up to go, and your fingers poised to transfer the stories inside you to the page.
And then... nothing. You stare at the emptiness before you, unable to open the tap that will release the literary magic. Some will tell you to just push through it, that writing anything is better than nothing, but what do you do when the words just aren't there?
When I am struck with Inspiration Constipation, I try to reconnect to my story rather than forcing words I know I'll hate. Here are a few simple tricks to get those creative juices flowing:
1. Make a playlist
Hop onto Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, iTunes or whatever other music platform you use and make a playlist. Try creating one around a specific character, scene, or setting. When you're finished, listen through a few songs without writing, and just take a moment to connect to your story. Think about the mood you want to convey. What emotions do the songs bring up in you? How can you transfer them to your story?
2. Make an audiospace
This is similar to making a playlist, but instead of using music try creating an audio scene using background noise. I like to use Ambient-mixer.com because it's a free resource with thousands of sounds to choose from. Again, you can base your audiospace around a character, scene, or setting. Pick sounds that represent the mood and personality of your chosen subject, and play it while you write. I've found that this really helps me put myself into the story.
3. Eat or drink something
No, I'm not saying to take a snack break. I've found that eating something my characters would eat helps me connect to them better. If I write a scene where the characters are eating breakfast, I make myself the same meal. I drink a cup of tea when my characters do, and try to make it the same kind even if that detail isn't mentioned in the story. The more authentic you can make the experience, the better. And you get a snack!
4. Take a personality test for your characters
Any personality test will do, but I find Myers-Briggs the most helpful. Not only will it give you a deeper understanding of your character, it can also help you determine how your character may act in certain situations. It's also a great way to help develop unique voices for your characters, especially if your story is written in first person or from multiple points of view.
5. Draw a map
You don't need to be an artist for this tip to work--just sketch out a simple drawing of a particular scene or setting. It can be on as grand a scale as the whole world of your book, or as small as the main character's bedroom. Fill your drawing with as many details as possible and give each one a backstory. This will help you with worldbuilding, even if you end up not using the details in your book.
6. Read a book with a similar setting
Before I start a story, I like to read books with similar characters, settings, and voices. When I get stuck in my writing I do the same thing. It's a great way to get inspired and to consider information about your world. My goal as a writer is always to inspire others, so why not let others inspire you?
7. Cast your characters
Another fun exercise is to "cast" the characters in your book. You can do this with actors or with people you know in real life--just make sure you have their permission if you want to use a photo for inspiration. Consider what your characters look like beyond hair and eye color. What is the shape of their smile? Where do they have wrinkles? What do their eyes look like when they cry? How do they move when they're performing a task? What do they look like when they're falling asleep? Making these kinds of observations will help you write character descriptions that give information about personality and not just looks.
Eventually you do have to go back to writing, but practicing these techniques can help you get a better feel for your story, and gives you a guilt-free exercise when you just can't get the words out. Writing is more than putting words to the page, so don't undermine your planning time.
What do you do to connect with your story when you're feeling stuck? Leave an idea in the comments!