KNOWHOW How to get through plot-block







In the second of her strand about plotting, K. L. Kettle gives some tips on what to do when your plot gets stuck. 



We’ve all been there, staring into space asking ourselves, 'what next?' Short of banging your head against the table until an idea formulates, here are two exercises that will help break the deadlock. 



A sculpture of Alice walking through a mirror
Photo: Colin Smith


Through the looking-glass

Whether you have plotted the end of your story or not, it’s key to remind yourself you’re working towards a transformative ending. This exercise will help you think about what kind of journey your character is on, and using your character’s voice can unlock beats you need to add or edit in your character’s journey. This is a freewriting exercise - don't over analyse! Let your imagination takeover and dream. 

  • Rewrite you opening chapter using the same POV, in the same setting, but a significant time period later. Go beyond the end of your story - at least 5 years. 
  • In this chapter, the situation, tone and attitude of your POV character should be completely opposite.
  • Your 'mirror' character should briefly explain their new life to the character in the opening scene. 
  • Write around 500 words

Take it further...

Your opening POV character asks their future, mirrored self, ‘So, what happened?’ In no more than 500 words the mirror self tells their story as an anecdote. 


Computer art of a magical looking tree with lantern
Photo: Pixabay


Once upon a time

Fairy tales represent ‘pure’ plots; they don’t work if you over complexify. Retelling your tale this way will help free you to see your story from a different angle, and maybe see where you can trim, elaborate or deepen to move forward. 

  • Write a short telling of your remaining story but as a fairy tale. 
  • Begin with the statement. ‘Once upon a time…’or ‘Once there was a…’ 
  • Write around 500 words


Take it further...

Adapt the ending of your fairy tale, tell the moral differently, i.e. as a ‘cautionary tale’. You could even try to weave this into your story (see Thanks for the Trouble, by Tommy Wallach, for where this works well).

For more exercises like this, I recommend What if? by Pamela Painter and Anne Bernays. It contains some of the best writing exercises I’ve found and I highly recommend adding this to your arsenal! And if you try one of these, let us know how it went in the comments box below!


Header image from Maxpixel


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K.L.Kettle's debut YA novel The Boy I Am will be published by Stripes Publishing in 2020  

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