I was stuck. I needed to write a scene to get my protagonist out of a sticky situation and I didn’t know what to do. It was literally the “man in the hole” scenario where I had made my alien stronger and stronger and the situation was getting more and more dire for our hero.
Then I got stuck.
For a week, I couldn’t figure out how write my guy out of this hole. So I thought about one of my favorite TV shows, Agents of Shield. Whenever the team was in a hopeless situation, one of two things would get them out: 1) a cloaked Quinjet or 2) an alien artifact.
Lesson 1: When your hero is stuck, make a list of things that could save them.
- Duct tape
- Magical artifact
- Magical power
- High tech futuristic gadget
- Another character
This was a good brainstorming exercise that helped me rule out the direction I wanted the story to go. Ultimately, I wanted my hero to save himself and not have outside intervention rescue him. That limited the exit strategy to skills and circumstances unique to the hero and his team.
Also, once I started working in that direction, there were some hard science questions that I needed to address to preserve the rules of the world. Science questions that I didn’t know the answer to. So I reached out to the Science Fiction Round Table for science consulting and found some great assistance.
Lesson 2: Dial a Friend or Call an Expert
Instead of spinning my wheels, I laid out my problem and my proposed scientific solution and received valuable feedback from someone more knowledgeable that I am in the area of a science and physics.
This enabled me to test and hone my scene development. Also, it addressed my concern about someone later reading it and not being able to find the scene believable.
This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to find this group of like minded folks.
So I guess the ninja secret here too is to find your tribe of writers by going genre-specific.
There is nothing quite like talking about supplies with another prepper or Faraday cages and EMP with another science fiction fan. As Seth Godin pointed out in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us,
“People like us do things like this.”
That means when you brainstorm with another sci-fi author or fan, you get an authentic connection that will enhance your storytelling. So if you are getting out there and spending time with other writers, I encourage you also to spend time with folks who write in your genre or are big readers in your genre.