Slogging through the mud

Melancholia I by Albrecht Dürer.

I’m currently stalled out on a story. I’m writing a scene where two soldiers—well, space marines—are knowingly walking into the lion’s den.

Sometimes in the course of writing a story you just get stopped cold. It’s not writer’s block per se; in this case, I just don’t want to describe their actual trip into the lion’s den—the ABCs of how they go down the corridors and so forth. This often happens to me in my writing; a sequence feels forced or, worse, boring.

Obviously there are a few tricks a writer can use. You can try to spice it up with dialogue and maybe a little exposition, which I tried to do before I decided it still wasn’t working. You can just jump right into the action, but in this case I think the transition would be too jarring, since the previous scene shows the heroes deciding to head into the lion’s den.

Usually, my preferred solution is to jump to another character or perspective for a bit, then return to our heroes when they’re in the thick of it. This can prevent the jarring effect of seeing the characters go from solemn decision to blasting aliens. I’ve done this trick many, many times, which worries me. It becomes a crutch, a way to avoid the more pragmatic prose you sometimes have to write to get from point A to point B.

And when you jump to a completely new character or perspective—maybe some generic worker or soldier—and then never see that character again, it becomes an obvious cheat.

I keep staring at the page and trying to figure out how to move forward, and I just can’t do it. I guess it is writer’s block.


Sphere of Influence member Michael Burstein, an award-winning sf writer, has a story in the upcoming sf anthology Visual Journeys. The concept of the anthology sounds really cool—sf authors write stories inspired by artwork by some of sf’s greatest artists. I’ve used this method of inspiration before and found it really fun. I can’t wait for the book.

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