Kick-starting the Writing Heart: How Character Development Helps Overcome Writer’s Block…

Hitting The Writer’s Wall…

 stone wall

A common experience for novelists during the marathon of getting the words down on the page is hitting the wall. It can happen at any time. Some people call it writer’s block. It feels like the words have dissipated like oxygen from a long distance runners lungs. The adrenaline rush that carried you so far has crashed. Like a cartoon coyote you fall to the ground and the writing stops dead.

I’m not talking about those times when you’re so busy it’s hard to stick to your writing schedule.

This is about the days when you sit at the page and nothing happens. Nothing. Not one word. You play a game, write emails, watch cats playing piano on Youtube… You can do anything except write. It’s like you’ve lost your story. It breaks your heart. You’re dry. It’ the saddest, most gut-wrenching feeling in the world for a wordsmith.

This is the main reason why so many people give up writing a full-length novel. A project that takes so much time, intelligence and passion can appear to die in whisper of disappointment.


It’s a syndrome I’ve observed so often in writers in my classes over the years.  I searched for a cause and found out it’s not a Stopping Point.  It’s a Stop-and-Feel point.  Two very different things.

This is why I’ve developed a method to re-hydrate the writer within! There’s a kind of liquid, creative vitamin, muse-infusion that will kick-start the novelist’s writing heart.


Kick-starting the Writing Heart

 Basically, the answer is that you’ve fallen down because you’ve fallen out of love with your story people – yes, even the villains. So you have to re-ignite the fire. And in the end, the fire burns in the characters you’ve created.

I often teach my students that the plot is the mind of story, theme is the soul and character is the heart.  All three of these have to be functioning or the story dies. 

Because theme and plot are based more on cognitive functioning you can think your solving any writing problems with these two.  But character is different.  Character must be intriguing, fascinating and engaging in order to write about them. 

You’ve got to love them or hate them or preferably feel a bit of both for them.  Most of all they’ve got to be good value.  By that I mean they must deserve their place roaming around in your imagination rent free for such a long time.


Get closer to them. Get to know them better than your own family. Find out more about them. Breathe life into them and the story lives again, the words flow, the impulse to follow a scene through to the end returns.


Here are a few exercises to make this happen:

  • Write a scene in which your MC is behaving in a way that on one else can understand.  You know why they’re doing this, but the minor character[s] around them don’t.  Make it really difficult for your MC to function.  Feel how much it hurts to be misunderstood.  Ratchet up the tension. Use setting to enhance the difficulties.  Use all the senses.
  • Write a piece of dialogue from your MC’s past where she discovers a terrible secret she’ll have to carry for the rest of her life. 
  • Write your MC’s obituary.  Write it first from the point of view of your antagonist.  Then from the point of view of her closest ally.
  • Write about your MC’s first heartbreak.  Make it happen in the most humiliating way possible.  Feel his pain.

You may not use these scenes in your story but they’ll get you closer to your MC. 

Remember, if you can re-kindle the relationship between you and your characters and the writing will follow like the night the day.

It’s the heart of writing.  J x

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