Story Concepts & Development for Novels, Comics, Games, Film and TV

Being Creative on a Deadline

No writer is immune to a dry spell now and then. Creativity can sometimes be elusive. Add to that the pressure of an impending deadline, and the spark can vanish altogether. [I know it probably sounds crazy, but even finding topics for this blog each week has been challenging.]

Writer’s block can happen for any number of reasons, especially if you’re always pushing to be original. Here are some of the ways I dig myself out of the rut when the ideas are playing hard to get.

Sometimes, all it takes to get the creativity flowing is to get re-inspired. I do that by watching or reading great material. Of course, “great” is subjective. Depending on the nature of the project I’m working on, I tend to choose something similar in tone, theme, or in particular, genre, to what I need to get done.

While I’m watching/reading, I ask myself questions like:
-What structure is typical to the stories within this genre?
-What other elements – characters, conflicts, themes – seem to appeal to fans of the genre?
-How can I incorporate that structure or those elements in a fresh way?

This forces me to start a conversation with myself, and to start making choices, even if it’s to begin discerning what I DON’T want for my project. And starting the conversation is usually all I need to kickstart the creativity.

Writers can get tripped up in development because they have a lack of clarity on their project. Whether it’s a blog, film treatment, TV pilot, or webcomic, a writer has to know the essence of what they’re trying to write – has to define the project in the most basic way. Is it a man fighting against himself? A coming-of-age tale? A feel-good sports story? A redemption journey?

With the core of the story solid in my mind, I can start brainstorming scenes and conflicts unique to that core concept.

Even late in a project, if I find myself stalling out on ideas, I can usually refer back the story’s essence to get me back on the creative track.

I have touched on this in other articles, but a writer wants to avoid developing dull or predictable characters. Inexperienced writers believe that using archetypes make character predictable. But archetypes can actually help guide story as much as story can help guide character.

These archetypes perform vital dramatic functions in the form of the hero, mentor, ally, shadow, and others – tempting or supporting or challenging the hero. Depending on the core of the story, certain archetypes will fall naturally into the structure.

This can be another way to find a beacon in the fog. [For some great reference books on archetypes, try 45 Master Characters by Victoria Schmidt or The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.]

Above all, it is vital that professional writers meet their deadlines. Sometimes that can mean “writing it wrong” and submitting it anyway. With many projects, a writer will have a chance to make improvements throughout the process. And I find that it is always easier to work from something on paper than from a blank page.

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