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The Nonsense Technique for
Overcoming Writers Block

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

There are many techniques for beating Writers Block. The focus of this month's writing tip is on one technique you may never have encountered before. It sounds silly - but put it to the test and you'll likely be amazed at how well it gets the Muse in gear!

Step One: Random Words

First, write down three nonsense words. Don't stop to think it over, just jot down the first words that come to mind, as in a word-association test.

Example:

Cat, Running, Green

NOTE: You might want to include a mix of nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives

Write your nonsense words below, and then proceed to the next step to turn your nonsense words into an inspiration....

Step Two: Meaning

Now, imagine that all of your nonsense words are part of the same phrase. What sense can you make out of it? How many different ideas can you come up with that explain that phrase? Briefly describe each interpretation that comes to mind.

Example:

Cat, Running, Green could mean:

1. The cat fell in the bucket of green paint and ran off.

2. An animated cat is a numbers runner for the mob, carrying the money (green) to the bookie.

3. Pet kidnappers engaged in "cat-running," are tagged by animal rights activists with spray paint to identify them, a color that comes to be known as Cat Running Green.

4. A stop light turns green, and a whole "herd" of cats run across the street.

Background:

We all try to find meaning in what we see. That is why we identify pictures in inkblots, see faces in wood grain, and animal shapes in clouds. So even when no meaning is intended, our minds can't help but impose it.

By picking words at random, stringing them together and then looking for meaning, we move our minds out of creative block and into analysis mode. In other words, we temporarily shift from creation to interpretation.

In so doing, our subconscious automatically creates alternative meanings that fit what we see. So, write as many interpretations as you can based on the nonsense words you selected.

Step Three: Integrating Ideas

Next, try to incorporate into a single story idea as much as you find interesting from all the new ideas you've just created.

Example:

Let's integrate into a single story concept the ideas we came up with from the nonsense words, "Cat, Running, Green."

As a reminder, the "Cat, Running, Green" meanings were:

1. The cat fell in the bucket of green paint and ran off.

2. An animated cat is a numbers runner for the mob, carrying the money (green) to the bookie.

3. Pet kidnappers engaged in "cat-running," are tagged by animal rights activists with spray paint to identify them, a color that comes to be known as Cat Running Green.

4. A stoplight turns green and a whole "herd" of cats run across the street.

One way to integrate many of the concepts together could be:

Animated cats that are numbers running for the mob are being picked off by pet kidnappers, unaware of the cats' mob connection. Also unaware of the cats' underworld ties, a group of animal rights activist�s mounts a campaign to identify the kidnappers by spraying them with green paint whenever they catch them in the act.

Unfortunately, this puts a crimp in the cats' plans, making it almost impossible to continue their illegal activities. Tripping over a bucket of green paint in the alley, the "head cat" is inspired with a plan of his own.

The cats all wait around the corner of the animal rights activists' headquarters. As soon as the cats see them drive out, they hot-wire the streetlight to stop the van, then run out from behind the corner, across the street. The head cat has had himself painted with green handprints on his sides, looking as if the kidnappers have tried to grab him.

The van screeches off in the direction the cats were running from, in search of the kidnappers, leaving the whole uptown area free of their interference so the cats can get back to running numbers without interference.

Background:

Of course, some of the meanings you came up with may be completely ridiculous and not useful at all. And, there may be no way to work them all in, yet several ways to include some of your inspirations.

If you have several ideas, list them all. But if you can't think of any way to bring these ideas together, don't worry!

The purpose of this exercise is break free of Writer's Block, and the very process of shifting out of forced creative mode and into analysis mode usually does the trick.

Even if none of the nonsense interpretations are usable in and of themselves, when you return to your original ideas, you'll probably find whole new inspirations easily come to mind.

Whenever you find yourself stuck, return to this method and (more times than not) the ideas will flow again. So now, incorporate as many of your nonsense word interpretations into a single idea, blending it with your original story idea (if any) as may be appropriate.

Step Four: Finding the Holes

Referring to the revised story concept you just created, you'll probably see a lot of obvious holes where ideas ought to be. For a moment, step out of your role as author, and put yourself in the position of your reader or audience. Read over your story synopsis. Then, list all the unanswered questions that readily come to mind as you read through your story as it stands so far. Your audience will be unforgiving, so be harsh! If something doesn't make sense, is off kilter, or missing, make a note of it. Use the example below for an idea of some of the kinds of questions that might come up. Then pick your own ideas apart as thoroughly as you can.

Example:

Animated cats who are numbers-running for the mob are being picked off by pet kidnappers, unaware of the cats' mob connection. (Why are they kidnapping pets? What do they hope to gain or to do with them?) Also unaware of the cats' underworld ties, a group of animal rights activists mounts a campaign to identify the kidnappers by spraying them with green paint whenever they catch them in the act. (What does pet-napping have to do with animal activists?)

Unfortunately, this puts a crimp in the cats' plans, making it almost impossible to continue their illegal activities. Tripping over a bucket of green paint in the alley, (Where did the green paint bucket come from?) the "head cat" is inspired with a plan of his own.

The cats all wait around the corner of the animal rights activists' headquarters. As soon as the cats see them drive out, they hot-wire the streetlight to stop the van, then run out from behind the corner, across the street. The head cat has had himself painted with green handprints on his sides, looking as if the kidnappers have tried to grab him. (Why would the paint on the kidnappers be wet enough to still come off on the cat? Since it would be dry, it makes no sense that this would fool the activists.)

The van screeches off in the direction the cats were running from, in search of the kidnappers, leaving the whole uptown area free of their interference so the cats can get back to running numbers without interference. (Fine, but that only solves the problem momentarily - what solves the problem for good?)

Background:

An author tends to look at what a story will be. Readers and audiences look at what it is. Therefore, they tend to more easily see the holes. Put yourself in the reader/audience position. If all you knew about your story was what you have already written, what questions would you, the reader or audience, immediately want answered?

Step Five: Filling the Holes

Now the job is simple. Go into analysis mode - the same as when you came up with your initial meanings for your nonsense words - and figure out as many ways as possible to answer each question you just asked. Your answers don't have to be brilliantly clever, just sufficient to fill in the holes.

Why analysis mode? Because although creativity is hard to trigger on demand, logic is always available. You've already been creative in coming up with the ideas in the first place. So, you don't need to rack your brain for wonderful ideas. Just plug the holes with reasonable ideas that get the job done.

Step Six: Putting It All Together

Referring now to your answers to the questions about your story, revise your story description to include as many of those answers as possible.

This new description is the first draft of your story synopsis: a brief outline of your plot and the first step in developing your completed story.

And to reiterate, even if you don't want to develop the story you've just outlined, the very process of working your writer's mind through this exercise will shake off the shackles on your creativity.

  


$149.95                       $29.95          

*Try either or both for 90 days.  Not working for you?  Return for a full refund of your purchase price!

About Dramatica and StoryWeaver

What They Do

Dramatica is a tool to help you build a perfect story structure.  StoryWeaver is a tool to help you build your story's world.

Dramatica focuses on the underlying logic of your story, making sure there are no holes or inconsistencies. 

StoryWeaver focuses on the creative process, boosting your inspiration and guiding it to add depth, detail and passion  to your story.

How They Do It

Dramatica has the world's only patented interactive Story Engine� which cross-references your answers to questions about your dramatic intent, then finds any weaknesses in your structure and even suggests the best ways to strengthen them.

StoryWeaver uses a revolutionary new creative format as you follow more than 200 Story Cards� step by step through the story development process.  You'll design the people who'll inhabit your story's world, what happens to them, and what it all means.

How They Work Alone

By itself Dramatica appeals to structural writers who like to work out all the details of their stories logically before they write a word.

By itself, StoryWeaver appeals to intuitive writers who like to follow their Muse and develop their stories as they go.

How They Work Together

But, the finished work of a structural writer can often lack passion, which is where StoryWeaver can help.  And the finished work of an intuitive writer can often lack direction, which is where Dramatica can help.

So, while each kind of writer will find one program or the other the most initially appealing, both kinds of writers can benefit from both programs.

Try Either Program Risk Free!

We have a 90 Day Return Policy here at Storymind.  Try either or both of these products and if you aren't completely satisfied we'll cheerfully refund your purchase price.

 
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