Yes, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. We’ll skip, though, over the fact that it’s the same book I was unsuccessful in completing during last year’s NaNoWriMo and have only been able to occasionally chip away at since.

OK, we won’t totally skip over that part because otherwise I won’t be able to share the thought I had that helped me get back started.

See, I’d been stuck on a story point. I’d gotten the characters up to a certain point where they needed to take action but didn’t know how to get them beyond that, to actually taking the necessary action. In fact I wasn’t even sure what that action was going to be.

One day as I was mulling the storytelling roadblock I’d encountered I started thinking “What would really fuck their lives up right now?”

Five minutes later I had it.

You think about how you live your life. Somewhere I heard or read that life is 20 percent doing what you want and 80 percent reacting to other people’s actions. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly feels true in storytelling.

What other people do creates a chaos that leads characters in new and interesting directions. It gives them a reason to keep moving and throws their – and your – best laid plans out the window. It means your characters can’t just move down their checklist but instead have to improvise and adjust, which is much more interesting to the reader than if everything progressed along a neat and orderly path.

That’s true in real life, too. We’re much more interested in talking to the people who were stopped on the way here because a family of geese were crossing the road and they were the *cutest* than to the person who had a boring and uneventful drive.

If you’re stuck on a story, figure out how you can drop your characters out of their comfort zone to shake things up. Have them kicked out of the room they’re in, or have someone arrested. Do something they wouldn’t expect or anticipate and which you don’t know how they’ll react to. It’s a lot of fun to see the characters you created squirm a bit.