When Your Characters Go Silent

So you have the perfect idea for a novel, you know where it's headed, you've brainstormed different curves to reach those results, and then ---- silence.  Your main character isn't co-operating.  For someone who had been "yapping" to have their story told now they've turned mute.  Have you ever had this happen?  I have before, and it's not a fun experience.

For me, it went on for days.  I kept re-thinking the story-line, and the characters tweaking different aspects.  It actually got to the point where I got upset with the main character, and said "why aren't you talking to me?"  Their response was "I'm not who you think I am."  (It's a good thing my audience is writers or I'd be considered a schizophrenic.)

But, maybe this silence hasn't come during the brainstorming phase, but in the middle of the book.  Either way, when a "roadblock" hits we can panic:  There goes the book.  What am I supposed to do now?

Most important thing to remember is nothing is solved by panicking.  If fact, if we let it fester, it can paralyze us from forward momentum.

On the flipside to this, don't feel guilty if you need to step back from the book for a few days.  Remember, there's always a reason if our characters aren't "talking" to us - either we have the story wrong, or we have them wrong.  For me, it was my character.  I had him pegged as an innocent, whereas it turned out, he wasn't.

So what can we do to move beyond this, and get our characters speaking again?

1) Step back, think things through.
2) Interview your characters.  Let them tell you who they are.  Don't tell them who they are.
3) Think through the direction of your story.  Is it progressing logically in accord with the personalities of our characters?
3) And if they're still not talking, do something completely non-related to writing.  Talk a walk, read a book (not yours), watch a movie, go out with friends.  You get it - just let your mind relax.

Or, when all else fails you could always try the direct approach, like I did. lol

What about you?  What do you do to get your characters speaking again?

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