The late Robert B. Parker, speaking at a SleuthFest conference said, "There's no such thing as writer's block. Sure, writing can be hard. But can you imagine calling a plumber to fix your clogged toilet and having him tell you he can't show up today because he has plumber's block?"
One technique that's been mentioned in a good number of workshops I've attended is to invoke the "Rule of Twenty" (not to be confused with another post I did on the "Rule of Three"). The idea is that you come up with twenty possibilities for any situation. There are no boundaries. As a matter of fact, the totally off-the-wall ideas sometimes end up being the strongest.
When I was writing Deadly Secrets, my character was searching for something, and there had to be a reason why he couldn't come right out and ask about it, or the book would be over. There's no story if a character says, "Hey, Joe, I need that painting your grandfather handed down to you," and Joe says, "Sure. Here it is." So, I started listing all the sorts of things Justin, the character in question, might be looking for, and why he had to keep his search a secret.
The first things that come to mind will usually be the obvious, the mundane, or the clichés. By the time you get past the first ten, you’ll have something usable. By twenty, you’ll probably have something that’s unique to you.
I don’t adhere strictly to the twenty, but I do write down as many possibilities as I can think of—and often recruit the Hubster to come up with some as well. I've been known to pose these sorts of questions on my Facebook page as well. You never know where that perfect idea will come from.
For example, as a non-plotter, I don't always know where a scene is going. In my current WIP, I reached the following point and hit that wall. (Note: Gordon and Metcalf are searching for a missing woman, and they're in the middle of a snowstorm.)
Now what? Gordon took off after Metcalf, but at a considerably more cautious pace, testing muscles and joints. No serious pains, but he'd feel it tomorrow, and have some Technicolor bruising to show for his mishap.
Puffing, he arrived at the rock outcropping. Disturbed snow leading to a narrow gap in the rocks told him Metcalf was inside. Not willing to squeeze inside the cramped quarters, Gordon held back. "You have anything?"
Metcalf emerged holding a—
This is a perfect place to try that "Rule of Twenty." What sorts of things can you come up with? (For the record, Hubster's immediate response was "a bear" which I don't think I'll be using.)
Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.