If you’re stuck on a writing project, I want you to watch this video about frogs. It’s only 7 minutes, and honestly adorbs. Did you do it? Good.
I’ll know if you didn’t.
I’m a sucker for this kind of story. Nothing boring like a template, nothing at all like a blank slate. Stories like this are a playground for ideas and possibilities.
So let’s play.
It’s a little game called “How did we get here?”
The best balm for writer’s block is to start at the ending – to treat your story like a crime scene. Your job is to look at the end result of how events have unfolded, and answer that all-important question: “How did we get here?”
First, we set the stage: Dead man floating in the pool of a lavish villa. Bullets everywhere, along with a big mess of frogs. Phone off the hook, safe busted open, big (apparently useless) security system. The appearance of a large party interrupted – yet no blood.
So what happened? This is where you get to play detective. To daydream scenarios and investigate the characters, take roll call and sniff out relationships.
Maybe this is a story about bullets that turn good people into frogs and bad people into…dead bad people? Maybe this is a story about a bored billionaire who licks a frog and gets so high on toxins that he hallucinates a robbery. Maybe this is a story about a friendly herpetologist winning the lottery, only to be murdered by his old-money neighbors who disdain him.
The important thing is to think of all the maybes you can manage – don’t judge anything as too weird or outlandish. That’s where all the innovation is hiding.
After you’ve got a play-by-play you can rally behind, the next important question arrives: Who gets to tell the story? Imagine, if a bored billionaire licks a frog and goes off his rocker, that story is going to sound very different depending on narration. Told from the frog’s perspective? How about the nosy neighbor? How about the security guards who arrive after the alarm is tripped?
Who gets to tell the story is just as important as the physical scene.
“Garden Party” is a gorgeous piece of animation, and I enjoy it just the way it is. But it’s clear to see that something has happened, something momentous, off camera. Considering the whys and hows of a whodunit is one of the reasons I love writing.
So, if you’ve lost momentum in your story, try drafting the final scene first. It’ll give your compass a heading and, for sake of sanity, to stop swimming in circles.