The Barman Approach to Writer’s Block
Ever get a feeling like this?
The house is finally quiet…
The children are finally asleep…
The house is no longer on fire…
You sit in your favorite writing place, open your notebook, grab your trusty pen…and sit.
I have tried many approaches to writer’s block over the years, and I find that each method I come up with only works with that specific situation. A quick google search will give you listings like these that offer methods other writers have used to beat the dreaded writer’s block.
- How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 14 Tricks That Work by Jeff Goins (goinswriter.com)
- How to Beat Writer’s Block by Maria Konnikova (The New Yorker)
- 7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block by Chuck Sambuchino (Writer’s Digest)
The examples above are among my favorite often used go-to methods when I am personally struggling. While these suggestions are all very good and most work wonders on small things, I have found myself hitting the wall of writer’s block more often when it comes to the characters in my works.
In my current WIP, I have taken great lengths to develop deep and rooted characters, and sometimes they don’t behave in a manner consistent with what I have imagined.
Sometimes Often, I envision them reacting to something in a certain way, and when I finally hit pencil to paper, it just plainly doesn’t work, or it just isn’t in the character’s personality to act in that manner.
I have shared this a total of two times with people and have received overwhelmingly positive responses, so I have decided to lay out my method for character development-induced writer’s block.
I call it The Barman Approach to Writer’s Block
Bartender is an old short-form improv game whereby Player 1 goes into a bar and sings a short song about his troubles. Player 2 acts as the bartender and offers a solution, also in song.
In my version of this, not all of my characters are old enough to be frequenting a bar, and that would just be irresponsible of me as a writer to have my underage characters skulking about bars and pubs all night complaining of their problems.
If you are an avid reader of J. K. Rowling, you will very well know that aside from the 7 Harry Potter books, 8 Harry Potter movies, and the new Fantastic Beast franchise just started, there is also the informational treasure trove called Pottermore. It is within Pottermore that we are able to dive deeper into the mind of the author and get information on many supporting members of the wider wizarding commmunity. Personally, my all-time favorite character of the entire franchise is Florean Fortescue owner and proprietor of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley, London.
“Florean Fortescue, owner of an ice-cream parlour in Diagon Alley, is the subject of a ghost plot (a narrative that never made it into the final books). Harry meets him in Prisoner of Azkaban, where he finds out that Florean knows a lot about medieval wizards. Later, Harry discovers that an ex-headmaster of Hogwarts was called Dexter Fortescue.”
Pottermore Article on Florean Fortescue
So here’s how it works:
- Misbehaving Character (MC) walks up Diagon Alley and plops down on a barstool at the counter of Fortescue’s Parlour.
- (I envision) an elder gentleman (Fortescue) pulling up a stool of his own, and greeting MC warmly.
- They exchange pleasantries and basically get down to business.
- Fortescue notices that MC is troubled about something and offers to lend an ear.
- MC then spills his or her guts about what is going on, with occasional interjecting questions from Fortescue, who expertly steers the conversation exactly where it needs to go.
- Once the problems are aired, Fortescue offers his advice and comes up with the perfect combination of ice cream treat to complement the character’s personality and the character sits there quietly munching their treat and contemplating the advice.
It seems silly on the outside, and heck, it even sounds and looks silly now that I have put it into words, but I can’t tell you how many times that I have used this to figure out a sticky (pun most definitely, and most unfortunately intended!) character situation.