Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Teen Inklings Vol. 19: Curing the Lacklusters

Dear Christian,

I’m writing a story about a girl whose Father is in jail and her Mother has died. She’s on her own, and she’s faced with some adventure and a little bit of romance.
But I’m thinking about giving up the story. The ideas are just not coming to me.
What do you think I should do?


Hi there, Tasha!

When you’re in the middle of a project, it can be easy to lose steam. Oftentimes, this is because you’ve gotten bored with your characters or plot. There’s several ways to defeat the Lacklusters, as I like to call them. I’ll list a few remedies below.

IdeaIs the premise for your novel engaging enough to write a full book about? Recently, my friend blogged about this on her site. She mentioned Stephen King’s idea that to come up with a strong story idea, you should take two totally unrelated things and mash them together.

Some examples:

High school and karate (The Karate Kid)

Talking horse and slave boy (The Horse and his Boy)

Flight and elephants (Dumbo)

Once you find two things like this, that what if question forms in your mind. Just to show how easy it is to get ideas this way, I’ll look around my room, come up with two things, and turn them into an idea.

Looking around, I see my brother and a dragon statue. To turn this into a story, I could ask myself the question What if my brother was a dragon? This would lead to other questions, and I could write those all down and answer them in an outline.

Which leads me to the next segment…

PlotDo you know what happens next in your story? When I first started writing, I couldn’t get past the first few chapters of any project. And then I discovered outlining. By expanding my story idea into a full-blown map of what my characters wanted to do and where they wanted to go, I gained the confidence I needed to write past those first chapters and all the way to the end.

Click HERE to read my post about Outlining, then HERE to read my follow-up post about Three-Act Structure.

CharactersIs your protagonist boring? If you have a meandering character that never seems to get anywhere, perhaps you need to give him more inner conflict. Figure out the goals of each character in your novel. What do they want in life? What’s standing in their way? What steps can they take to get where they want to be?

InspirationDo you need to recharge? Sometimes you can have all the above elements and still find it hard to write. This is when you’ve spent your creative juices. I find that the best way to cure this form of the Lacklusters is to go out and do something other than writing for awhile. Think about what inspires you. Is it music? Art? Find out what makes your creative juices flow, and spend some time immersed in that. Then get back to writing!

Hopefully this answered your question, Tasha. :-)


If you have a burning question that you'd like answered, leave it in the comments below or e-mail it to this address: ChristianMiles@(at)live.(dot)com.


  1. Hey, great job Chris. Makes sense and I want to give the unrelated idea-mashing a try!

  2. Good summary of the writing process! You always make things sound so simple :)

    By the way, I've been wondering--did you finish that novel you were going to write in January?

    (D.) S. Dahnim

  3. Very good post Chris. It seems to me that January has, for many writers, been a month of lacklusters. Like the story just won't move. But it's February now, and I've seen the word count pick up in my own writing as well as in some of my friends'. That can only be a good thing, right?! :D


  4. I hated Dumbo. He creeped me out when I was a kid. Aside from that, great advice. I'm tossing my book and starting over ;)

  5. totally ingenious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is my new favourite blog. hey chris, can u plz take some time out to check out my blog. its new and completely unknown, but could u hav a look and see if im any good? it called the abnormalities of life. random, eh? the link is http://megzabnormsoflife.blogspot.com/ thx heaps