Monday, 25 March 2013

Introducing a Man with a Gun

Raymond Chandler once said. “If you are suffering from writer's block. Introduce a man with a gun.” Or words to a similar effect. 

He didn’t mean that literally a man with a gun had to turn up. What he meant was – make something happen, stir things up a bit. As a writer there are lots of things that can be done to stave off the dreaded block.  

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with as ways to shift focus. 

  • Injure someone: a trip, slip or burn can set in motion a chain of events which may be used to add characterisation or conflict. eg, “you could have told me that was there / slippy/ hot”
  • A minor character such as a neighbour or postman can deliver something which will move events on. Ideas include divorce papers, severed finger or a ransom note.
  • A telephone call, email, text or social media discovery can also be used to progress events.
  • Cut to a different thread and come back to the scene after a while. You may have had an epiphany while working on the other thread or written something which can be used in the area you are stuck on.
  • Move the characters to a different location. It doesn’t have to be far, another room would do but by moving them you are moving the story and offering up new things to be used for conflict. eg “ For fuck’s sake. Will you switch off that TV / food blender / lawnmower when I’m trying to talk to you.” Result = instant conflict.
  • Introduce a man with a gun. Why not? It’ll certainly give you something to write about. Obviously “gun” can be substituted by any other weapon you want to have the man use. 

Naturally you can’t keep bringing a man into the room or moving locations, but you can mix and match a bit to get yourself out of any dead ends. Dead ends are of course also good for mystery writers as they raise tension. 

I’m incredibly fortunate in that I haven’t ever really had to deal with writers block. With me it’s more a case of trying not to forget all the ideas I keep having for things to put into my novel. 

Please leave comments on ways that you cure this dreaded disease or have a gloat that you've never suffered from it.


  1. People wish that I'd get writer's block!!

  2. I once wrote a poem about my current writer's block:

    I’m feeling scratchy and bad-tempered, with a tale I can’t fulfil.
    I've a hero watching skylarks on the summit of a hill.
    With a rediscovered lover, who he welcomed like a shot.
    (A hotshotfuck if truth be told, since modest she is not).
    But they’ve been there for near a week, and I don’t know ‘what’s next?’
    Tried a jailbird, had him wed, nowt convinces and I’m well-vexed.

    I think I solved it by making it rain!