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For a while I had been having this “stuck” feeling while plugging away at my current manuscript. Despite a growing word count, I still felt that my writing flow could have been better. Something about the plot I had created just wasn’t sitting right in my soul. In order for me to feel good about the story again I needed to find out just what that something was. Then one day I stumbled across a random article about story villains (because everyone knows that great stories have great bad guys). I don’t remember a whole lot about the piece, but the thing that stuck with me most was this one question:

What would the life of your antagonist be like if he had never met your protagonist?

When I took the time to answer this simple question a wonderful thing happened – clarity. After typing out several pages I realized just how interesting of a character my antagonist really was. There was a reveal about why he does what he does, and I also realized that the world I had set my story in needed to change. Once I began to consider these modifications, other elements of my story began to click together better than before. This exercise made me want to ask the flip side of this question of my protagonist and other supporting characters in the story.

Not long after doing this self-assigned exercise the flow was back! In the excitement of the big reveal, I naturally thought about ways the beginning of my story would and could change. But instead of going backwards to make revisions I have taken notes and made a conscious effort to keep pressing forward by adding fresh ideas to the existing plot.

This exercise is just one thing that helped me move a little closer to my goal of completing my manuscript, and it may help someone else as well. To those of you just starting your novels or prepping to take the NaNo challenge in November, I highly recommend giving this writing exercise a try. When you do it, don’t take the easy way out by just writing a few simple lines to complete the task. Really dig in deep and think about the question, and don’t be afraid to ask “why” to the answer you come up with. What you discover could be the difference between being stuck and having complete clarity.

Until next time…