Have you ever been writing along and come to the end of a scene or end of a day’s list and have no idea what happens next in the story? Ever feel like you don’t know your character well enough? And you can’t stand those question sheets? Throw your character in jail.
This tip works for starting a story, developing a character or re-starting a story. It gets things moving. Here is how it works. Confine your character some how; in a room, in a cave, on a cloud, in the lair of a jack-a-lope; whatever works for you. Construct the prison so the character must use a weakness to get out. For example, if your character is Superman, the prison is made of krytonite and he must use his brain and not his braun to get out. If you do not know your character’s weakness, go with the first thing that pops in your head (and I do mean the first thing.) And if the “weakness” later turns out to be an strength–win, win.
It is best if the character does not know why or how they got into the prison or who put them there. If the the villain of the story is behind it; fantastic. If you don’t know this yet; even better. You are as cluless as the character (I love writing to discover). Oh, and there should be a ticking clock on it. They must be at a meeting the next day or the world will end or something like that.
The goal is the character must get free ASAP or life as they know it will end. Your job as writer is to report how they do it. By the time they escape you will know your character and the story will be flowing again.
For those who write in the realistic world, have your character get arrested and thrown in actual jail. Put them through the booking process. Do they get bailed out? Who do they call? You get the idea. I used this in my current novel and it jump started the story. I don’t think it will be in the finished product, but it got me from point A to point B and helped me to discover an interesting skill of a character..
I use the word prison, but it does not have to be a physical prison. For example, the character Michael Weston in the show Burn Notice is held prisoner in the city of Miami by whoever burned him. To be able to escape Miami he must find out how and why he was burned and who is behind it. His weakness? Dealing with family and relationships. In order to escape his situation, he must rely on his family, a former acquaintance and an ex-girlfriend who he has deeper feelings for than he likes the admit. He must face his weaknesses to escape.
This can be as simple as locking the character in a room or as elaborate as Burn Notice. It is up to you.
How would you throw your character in jail? Let me know using the comment section below.