I had a real wake-up call the other day when my grandson called to ask me if I was having trouble with my macbook. He’s not an Apple person and is always teasing about my addiction to these products, but I had no idea what he was referring to until he said, “I looked at your website today and noticed you hadn’t posted since late March!” It only took me a minute to respond that nothing was wrong with my computer, but that I was, and am suffering from a fairly severe case of Writer’s Block—with capital letters!
As this didn’t happen to me while writing my fictional account of Francis Lightfoot Lee in the Menokin novel, or in my second novel about an American military family, The Sound of Caissons, I am unfamiliar with getting stuck! The reason for writing fluidity in The Lees of Menokin, was because I was writing about real people whose lives I could follow and build on, albeit with extensive research; in the second, Caissons, most of the story takes place during a period of time and portrays a lifestyle I have lived. With these established guidelines I found it fairly simple to move my characters along to a conclusion, a meaningful ending.
Write what you know about, we hear in every writing class. Well, that is advice I thought I was following when I began Turn on No-Bridge Road, my latest attempt at being a novelist. The setting is a locale I know well, having lived there for many years. The house in the story, Woodbine, is fashioned after a house I visited often. Having observed and been a part of Southern culture as it were, for over half my lifetime, that should not be a problem. It is the characters, I keep telling myself! Then the next day, I feel it’s the storyline—where are you going with this? I ask myself repeatedly. Perhaps it is both.
In my two previous novels I created characters who quickly came alive for me. They walked and talked on their own. In the middle of the night I would wake up to write down something that I thought one of them had said or thought. In No-Bridge Road, there is only one character who seems real, and he dies early on. Perhaps I killed him off too soon. I consider going back and changing that, but then I stop, realizing how many other things it would change. When I ask myself why this particular character seems real, the answer seems to be that he is loosely based on someone I knew a long time ago. I can close my eyes and see how he walks and hear him speaking. Although the character in the story experiences a totally different life and shares nothing in common with the real person, it remains true that his presence and personality feel real. Two of my other characters have had name changes—the poor protagonist twice—she’s gone from Brandy to Lise to Claire! Is it any wonder I may be having trouble identifying with her?
So, having identified this problem, I ponder what else is blocking my ability to put this story together. For some unknown reason I began this novel in first person. It didn’t feel restrictive until I was fairly far along, when I began wanting to get inside other heads besides the protagonist’s. To start over in third person seems like a daunting task, but that is something I am considering. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I started over, and if I live long enough, it won’t be the last.
I looked on Google this morning and found a number of sites that suggest ways to overcome Writer’s Block. If I find anything truly helpful there, I will let you know. And I’m not giving up on No-Bridge Road—there’s a story here and, continuing as my own best critic, I aim to finish it to the best of my ability!