Advice For Writers: Add Explosions

During the past several years I have rediscovered my love for writing fiction that first surfaced when I was a young fellow in grade school and wrote a story about throwing a teacher out of the window. A story that inspired a banner that the teacher made and hung over the blackboard for years that read “Creative but Positive.” I’m sure for many parents that visited that room for parent-teacher conferences, that banner seemed a bit odd for a 5th grade classroom. That was when it all began and it continued in spurts throughout my school years until one day I graduated and abruptly stopped writing.

Stopped until one day while attending Visible Music College I wrote a short story for a class and the professor took me to lunch later and told me that I should go to college for writing. This, as you can imagine was greatly encouraging, but I had no love of higher education and my writing went dormant for a long time again. However, in the ensuing years as I was writing songs for bands I was in or for my solo work, the need to write stories began to well up in me again. After several more years of neglecting to actually start writing the science fiction story that my brain had been crafting while I toiled away in a meaningless job that did not otherwise engage my brain, I finally forced myself to put pen to paper. Or 1’s and 0’s to the computer as the case was.

What flowed out of that and is still flowing out of that is a science fiction story that has become far grander and more satisfying than I could have imagined before I started. It isn’t finished yet, not by a long shot. Starting a family, having a full-time job, occasionally still writing songs, publishing a non-fiction book and getting into board game design can definitely cut down on writing time. I am certain that the previous sentence may appear to many as someone making excuses for not finishing what I set out to do. If you have that perception, then you are absolutely correct. Because along with those perfectly legitimate and equally satisfying uses of my time there were plenty of lazy days full of watching television, playing video games, wasted time trying to be an internet marketer and whatever else the brain can come up with to do anything except be productive. If there is one thing I can hold onto as a shred of dignity as a writer it is that I have kept writing, kept developing that story that has been building in me for many years now. I may write sporadically, but I keep writing.

Sometimes writers get stuck however. Sometimes the story you are telling reaches a point where you are in the middle between Point A and Point B and you are not sure how to complete that journey. At least not in any compelling sort of way that makes the reader actually want to come along for the ride. I have discovered a rather useful writing device to help me through those times however: Add explosions. Do something so remarkably dramatic and unexpected that your story and your characters can’t help but be pulled along by it and get to Point B whether they wanted to or not. Your characters might be bleeding and full of scars by the end but get them there!

Some of the more seasoned writers, perhaps those who enjoyed that higher education path to writing,  who may be reading this will likely dismiss the previous paragraph as the advice of a novice to other novices to rely on cheap literary devices to advance a plot point. They might be right, but it makes for fun story telling and certainly more engaging to read. When chapter 1 of my sci-fi book started out rather slowly and with nothing to grab the reader’s attention I realized that I needed to start the book with a chapter that takes place earlier in time than what was presently chapter 1. The result was a new chapter that is easily one of my favorites in the book and is full of action, explosions, and space pirates. While working on a chapter far later in the book I realized with a sudden certainty that one of my favorite characters needed to die. It was unexpected, even to me, and it made the story better. Literal explosions may not fit every fiction theme, say a love story for example, but adding something unexpected that does fit your theme can be a great way of getting you through a rough spot in your story.

So my advice to my fellow aspiring writers that are stuck in the middle of their story: Add explosions. Blow some stuff up.

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