And Now For Something Completely Different

Montesa_AlteredVibrance_squareHi all! My name is John Brewer and I ‘m the newest member of the crew on Writing Prompts&Thoughts&Ideas… Oh My! I’m very excited to be working with such a wonderful, hard working and talented crew and hope to bring my own unique perspective to this very handy blog.

So, the theme this month is Everything Bible, a subject with which I am very familiar yet, at the same time, completely ignorant. Familiar because I grew up in a Christian home and have remained faithful. Ignorant because, as a mortal, limited human, I can see so little of the glory of God. It seems that every time I read His Word I come away with something new, which leave me wondering how much I have yet to uncover. As children we learn the Bible stories and think we know the Bible. Ha! God has a lifetime of discovery ahead for each of us.

NoPlotHolesI’ve witten four novels, several of which have been published, and when you work at this game for a while you begin to see what you are good at, and what you are bad at. I’m pretty good with plot. It may be because I’m a physicist and tend to think very analytically. Regardless, I spend a lot of time on it and like to make sure I have no plot holes. If there is anything in literature that drives me nuts, it is plot holes. I certify all my work as 100% plot hole free.

But plot is where we writers often get stuck. What to do next in a story so that it keeps moving forward. Of course if it were that simple, it would be simple. But it isn’t that simple. Not only must your next plot point keep the story moving, it must engage the reader and therein lies the difficulty which can lead to the dreaded writer’s block. Addressing writer’s block, how to avoid it, and how to overcome it is today’s writing prompt.

Remember Monte Python’s Flying Circus? When you saw it as a kid you probably hated it. That weird British humor. But you love it as an adult. I’ll never forget this one in particular: And Now For Something Completely Different. It starts with something completely different, a suit-wearing man in a zoo-cage saying “And now for something completely different,” and moves on to something completely different, a British “tommy” striking another with a fish, and ends with something completely different, the original offender being struck with a very large fish, knocking him into the water. For decades this was Monte Python’s calling card – absurdity. You never knew what was coming next. That is what made them humorous and fresh; going places we never expected.

HugeDiggerThis is why we writers get stuck in plot. We build our stories in a very linear fashion based on what came before. Cause and effect. But that isn’t what real life is like, is it? And it certainly isn’t the stuff of an interesting story. Stories are engaging because of the unexpected. Bizarre things happen. People behave irrationally. They burst into anger. React unexpectedly. Make bad decisions. Unexpected things happen when, by definition, we least expect them. Of course, it is hard to think this way. Most people try to go along to get along. We avoid confrontation and try to make good decisions. And while all of this is well and good in real life, if you write this way you will put your readers to sleep.

I struggled with this mightily in my early writing. Characters came off flat. Nothing happened. Even the exciting parts seemed forced. I eventually realized it was because I was inside all the characters heads making good decisions all the time. I’m basically a decent person and treat others as I want to be treated. This is DEATH in a novel. Your bad guys have to be BAD. Your good guys have to make mistakes. Crazy people need to act crazy. And unexpected things need to happen.

Perhaps the best example of this is found in the Bible itself, when Jesus died on the cross. It would seem that his reign ended there. The Romans and the Jews must have written him off. Satan certainly thought he’d won. His followers believed they’d been finished. How unexpected was it when Christ arose on the third day? Who saw that one coming?

In today’s writing prompt think of something totally unexpected. Anything from someone having a stroke to a civilization ending meteorite hitting the Earth. It’s impossible to get it wrong because there are no mistakes.

Today’s Prompt: Perfect days don’t come very often but Jake had to admit, this seemed like one of them. The concrete truck had arrived on time and there were actually enough men to get it smoothed out before it started to harden. One of them actually spoke English this time so Jake had been able to communicate for a change. Amazingly enough, the weather even cooperated, with a nice blue sky and a refreshing breeze. Then his boss arrived with money to pay the workers before five o’clock. As Jake walked out to his truck he wondered if anything could go wrong.

Try to do something completely different in this story. Having the truck fail to start is totally predictable. So what happens next? Does he win the lottery? Does he get a cell phone call that his wife was just killed in a car accident? Those are both pretty predictable. Make a conscious effort to do something totally unexpected. But then, that’s the hard part, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading!

Find out more about John on his website: johncbrewer.com .

– John C. Brewer