So, a big part of my being-stuck problem on the RSWIP (Romantic Suspense Work In Progress) was not really having an antagonist, which meant my characters were just wandering around bickering for no reason without any escalation of stakes. They had lots of problems, of course, just not the kind of antagonist-driven conflict that makes things, you know… interesting.
I found that it helped to do some outlining – but it also clarified that my lack of antagonist clarity was a big problem. So I did it again!
I treated the antagonist as if she were the protagonist (don’t most antags think they’re the protag anyway?) and went through the same steps.
This was really helpful at showing me where my antagonist was doing things that made sense for her (Act I) and where she wasn’t (uh…. Acts II and III), and helped me think about whether my antagonist WAS my antagonist, or whether she was a minion (still not 100% sure, even though I’m calling her my antag now).
I’m not sure I have many answers, but I think at least now I know the right questions to ask next time my writing partner and I get together.
I’m also a little bit tempted to give my antag a POV – or to write it as a website bonus – like Jenny Crusie did with the Antagonist Monologues on her blog – but for now, I’m going to try to focus on just getting clues about the antag dropped in the MC’s POV pages.
Either way, I suppose I shouldn’t count my chickens just yet. But things are looking up with my whole tumbleweed-mind situation!
So, I decided to try Tess Hilmo’s advice and make myself a foldable outline/plot-diagram thingie, like so:
It was immediately satisfying to have just created the thing, if a bit scary (since it was still all full of blank boxes, and I only had pens). But I figured, if it didn’t work, no harm no foul, right? I would just toss it out.
So I got started, sort of doodling around while some friends played video games and shot the breeze, and eventually the problem occurred to me:
The boxes ask about Main Characters.
My WIP is more or less a romance. That means it’s got two main characters.
I’ve been stuck with a blank mind on BOTH of my works in progress for about the last three months.
And NOW I’m at the point where it’s almost intimidating to go back: what if everything I’ve done is terrible? Or, if it’s good, what if I’ve totally lost the ability to write like that?? Or what if it’s terrible AND I’ve lost the ability to do it?!?!?
Obviously this is brain-weasels running amok but it’s still giving me a hard time.
So, I tried some “not-writing,” per Turbo Monkey’s Sarah McGuire (and added her book Valiant to my TBR pile while I was at it). That… didn’t get me unstuck. I’ve had great success with that approach in the past (especially during college, where my roommates would all watch me playing Snood and ask tentatively how the essay was going) but unfortunately my mental landscape just looked like
Then I tripped over Tess Hilmo’s “Best Plot Help Ever,” a little paper foldable that sounded cute and fun and sort of like those MASH things or a ‘flapdoodle’ (srs education term for a folded-up/cut paper study aid) and I decided I would try one of those for each WIP and see if any gears started turning.