There is a add in old Byte magazines (a personal computer magazine that no longer exists) from the 1970s. It’s a picture of a father in his pajamas, wearing a 1930s style Buck Rogers helmet sitting in front of a computer playing a computer game. His son looks around the door frame at his father.
Here’s a little music to listen to while you read the rest of this blog.
What’s that got to do with writing steampunk? Plenty, it’s about beating writers block. You know what writers block is. That’s when the muse hands off a great idea to you. You tuck the idea under you arm so nobody can yank it away like the great quarterback that you are. You run for the goal. A hole opens in the scrimmage line. You pour on the speed.
There, standing in the hole is a 450 pound lineman. To him, it’s not a game. It’s personal, he hates you. He’s going to make a blood smear out of you on the Astro Turf. You’re going to have rug burns so deep that they will be ground into your DNA and passed on to your grandchildren.
You freeze. Behind your back, three 350 pound linemen have leaped at you and they are going to pound you into the Astro Truf.
Don’t freeze. Don’t, stopping is the worst thing you can do. Come on, have you ever gotten rug burns from writers block?
What can you do? Two things.
1. Fake your mood. If you write science fiction, cos play science fiction. Dress up like a Jedi or Star Trek communication officer. It doesn’t cost that much and you will be ready for the next convention. Conventions are a great mood improvement for me. Now you have no excuse not to go to a convention. You got the outfit, now go and show it off.
You’re sitting at your computer, dressed as a 1850s card shark, or the captain in the star fleet. Think about the problems that you would have if you were a card shark, or a space ship captain. That conniving ensign that’s wants to become a captain and is out to knife you in the back. Yeah, I know, that would never happen in Star Trek. The characters were well adjusted and had the motivation of a Tribble. (being a Tribble isn’t all that bad, they knew how to make love not war).
Put the problems you think you would face as a character into your story. They may not fit or they might be perfect. You will not know till you write them down.
Think about common problems going horribly wrong. The airship is not making any head way. The storm winds are too strong. “But captain we can’t go any higher to get out of the storm, the oxygen generator has been sabotaged.” (How convenient.)
It’s been done where someone beams down and they don’t get to where they were suppose to. Turn it on its ear. What if they get there, but the ship is gone.
Dress up, enter your story world and cause problems. A story needs problems, it needs conflict. If you’re stuck, cause problems. The new problems may be so much better than the old problems that you cut the old problems out of the story and go with the new problems.
Try solutions that don’t make sense. The line from Star Dreck comes to mind; Scotty says, “I tried shoving a wiener up the warp drive but it didn’t do a bit of good. Bye the bye, you wouldn’t have a wee bit of mustard on the bridge.”
2. Run over the 450 pound lineman of writer’s block. He wouldn’t expect it. Put a cleat in his face. Do the mamba with your cleats on his chest. Spike him in the back. Make writers block hurt. Hurt the villain of your story. Hurt the hero of your story. You’re desperate. Do desperate things. Pull an Indiana Jones, have your hero do something that looks right, makes him and the reader feel good, but it’s be the wrong thing or turns out wrong. That’s great for a hero that is turning out to be a superman. Heroes need to make mistakes. They’re heroes, they make heroic mistakes.
So put on your helmet, get out your light saber, put on your gears, or wear your corset and write about how uncomfortable that thing is.
Stay strong, write on, and dress to fake it.
Professor Hyram Voltage