CPC Guest Contributor, K. Alan.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with television. I dreamed of the day that I could watch my choice of any TV show, at any time I wished. Now, that day has arrived, and I have discovered that it is a classic Chinese Curse: something for which I should never have wished. The temptation to watch the fiction on that electricity-powered device too often distracts me from the fiction I should be writing.
More recently, however, I have managed to use television, film and Internet video to motivate my writing on those days when nothing will flow. Perhaps as an exercise in proving my mother wrong, here are three strategies for using electronic video to shock your Muse back into pumping creativity.
- Defibrillate by novelizing: Whether we admit it or not, nearly everyone remembers moments when we were tickled, traumatized or terrified by something we watched in a film. Find that video, by searching online or breaking out your old-school DVDs, and watch some of the scenes that move you two or three times. By providing narrative to describe those scenes, and working the screenplay’sdialogue into it, you may find that you are describing emotions and settings in ways that can be adapted into your own work.
Of course, there is no shame in novelization, even professionally: in fact, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is entirely committed to this work. For us, though, adapting a scene or two into narrative form is meant to more quickly and more simply “grease the wheels” of your own original fiction.
- Defibrillate by franchising: A novel franchise is an original story based on characters and situations invented elsewhere. In fact, fanfiction.net features a range of storytelling (some of which is surprisingly good) usually written under a Creative Commons License that prohibits selling the work. Some of your work might even end up there—somewhere in my own files are original Star Trek and Columbo novels—but our purpose today is, again, simply to help with Writers’ Block.
Franchising can help inspire you! By writing an original scene or two featuring your favorite film or series, you are removing some of the cognitive load associated with characterization, setting, and even planning in general. All that’s left is the writing, and the momentum of that writing might open doorways into your own work. Write a scene as though it was missing from your show. Who knows? Maybe it was!
Defibrillate a ‘throwaway chapter’ using crossover: Recently, I submitted my NaNoWriMo project, Death Imitates Art, to the Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. This put me under a tight deadline: so tight, in fact, that I knew one day I just didn’t have time to be stuck on a chapter. When my protagonist, Eloise, was conflicted about her mother’s mental illness, I asked myself a simple question: “How would Doctor Frasier Crane explain it to her?”
Within an hour or two, I had completed a chapter featuring Kelsey Grammer’s famed character interacting with mine and explaining how the illness affected Mara. I knew I could never use this chapter—it would be grossly illegal—but the dialogue that it generated in the other characters became some of the most important signposts of my premise. More importantly, once Frasier was gone, I just kept writing.
Of course, your mother was right, as mothers usually are: too much television, or video… or Internet… is damaging not just to our eyes, but to our creativity. If you can tell the difference, though—if you can see that fine line—then the border between inspiration and obsession might be just the place that cures your Writer’s Block.
Unashamed, then, I thank goodness for my TV.